Valley Voice: Why ‘fixing’ the Salton Sea with pipelines is unrealistic and too expensive

Valley Voice: Why ‘fixing’ the Salton Sea with pipelines is unrealistic and too expensive.

Alexander Schriener Jr. – Desert Sun, June 27, 2021

Once again, the chest beating for a sea-to-sea pipeline to “fix” the Salton Sea has begun. Here are a few facts are often ignored.

The Coachella Canal shows that it is possible to transport water long distances without pumping. That canal transports Colorado River water 122 miles to the Coachella Valley, all by gravity. It was completed in 1948, before current environmental regulations. According to the CVWD, this canal delivers about 280,000 acre-feet per year of water.

Assume a similar canal is used to transport sea water to the Salton Sea. It is estimated that the volume of the Salton Sea is 8 million acre-feet. The annual volume of the Coachella Canal is less than 4% of that. It is estimated that the New, Alamo and Whitewater rivers combined deliver 850,000 acre-feet a year of water to the Salton Sea. The Coachella Canal is only 33% of that volume.

Thus, you would need the equivalent of 3 Coachella Canals to equal the total flow of the three rivers, and that volume would not replenish the Salton Sea any more than the rivers do now.

Look at the chemistry of the water in the current lake. It is stated it is too salty to support robust aquatic life and too contaminated for humans to be around. Use the analogy of a swimming pool that is half full of bad water. A garden hose is run into the pool to start a refill. How much water will be needed to fill the pool and change the water to a quality you want? Simple answer is you can’t do it, unless you pump out the existing bad water and replace it with better water.

So, to improve the water quality and refill the Salton Sea, you will need two large sets of canals or pipelines: one to pump the too salty and contaminated lake water out and one to bring new sea water in. And you will need to continue doing this from now on.

All this imported sea water and exported unwanted Salton Sea water will be coming from and going to the ecologically sensitive Sea of Cortez. How many international environmental groups do you think are going to say that is a good idea?

It has been estimated that just a single pipeline to bring sea water to the Salton Sea would cost upwards of $10 billion, take international treaties and take decades to complete. If you had $10 billion to spare, how would you spend it? Would you spend it on better healthcare, social services, improved job opportunities and education for the people in California and that region, or would you spend it to refill a Lake by Mistake, so you can float a boat? This is not a trick question.


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