PLAN

PLAN – Divide the sea at the county line separating Riverside and Imperial Counties. Create a road at that point to connect HWY 111 to HWY 80. Create groundwater pumping stations surrounding the sea to access the century of water that has permeated the ground. The water that is accessed has been organically filtered naturally through decades of Colorado River water displaced since 1905.
Rob
P.S. – this will work inexpensively if anyone would listen
Salton Sea Management Plan

Army Corps of Engineers releases Draft Environmental Assessment for SSMP 10-Year Plan

Today, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) released the Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) and proposed Letter of Permission procedures for the State of California’s Salton Sea Management Program Phase 1: 10-Year Plan (SSMP 10-Year Plan). For more information and to view the official Corps documents please visit:  https://www.spl.usace.army.mil/Missions/Regulatory/Projects-Programs/.
As the federal lead agency, the Corps has prepared the Draft EA to analyze and disclose the effects of implementing the SSMP’s 10-Year Plan, pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The SSMP 10-Year Plan proposes to implement a total of 29,800 acres of dust suppression and aquatic habitat restoration projects around the perimeter of the Salton Sea. At least 50 percent of the project acreage will be created as habitat for fish and wildlife that depend on the Salton Sea ecosystem and the remainder will be projects to suppress dust. Additionally, the Draft EA includes and evaluates actions by several federal agencies.
Public comments can be submitted on the Draft EA and proposed Letter of Permission procedures electronically to: splregssmp@usace.army.mil until 5:00pm (PST) on July 21, 2022.
In addition, the Corps will host three virtual public meetings to receive comments on the Draft EA and the Letter of Permission Procedures on the following dates and times:
July 7: 1 to 3 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m.
July 12: 6 to 8 p.m.
Each of the three meetings will be the same and allow community members and stakeholders to provide input and official comments that will help shape the federal decision as to which projects are implemented, what community amenities are included, how potential environmental effects are addressed, and the proposed alternatives to be considered.
This vitally important comment period is your opportunity to help shape the projects coming to the Salton Sea as part of the SSMP’s 10-year Plan.
Spanish interpretation will be provided. Habrá interpretación al español.
Please click the link below to join the webinar:
Or join over the phone by dialing:
Teleconference Dial In: 888-278-0296
Access Code: 596019
Meeting ID: 81408174164
Facebook Live in Spanish: @SaltonSeaCOEE page
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Big lie about Colorado River

Demands for its water far exceed what it ever could provide

MICHAEL HILTZIK

 

Hoover Dam – Luis Sinco LA TIMES

It’s human nature to mark big-number anniversaries, but there’s a centennial looming just ahead that Californians — and other Westerners — might not want to celebrate.

It’s the 100th anniversary of the Colorado River Compact, a seven-state agreement that was signed Nov. 24, 1922.

That evening, in the Ben Hur Room of Santa Fe’s Palace of the Governors, using the lapboard on which Gen. Lew Wallace had written his biblical epic 40 years earlier while serving as New Mexico’s territorial governor, representatives of six of the seven states of the Colorado River Basin applied their signatures to the compact with a gold pen.

The compact — essentially an interstate treaty — set the rules for apportioning the waters of the river. It was a crucial step in construction of Hoover Dam, which could not have been built without the states’ assent.

The compact stands as a landmark in the development of Los Angeles, San Diego, Denver, Phoenix and other Western metropolises. But it is also a symbol of the folly of unwarranted expectations.

That’s because the compact was built on a lie about the capacity of the Colorado River to serve the interests of the Western states — a lie that Westerners will be grappling with for decades to come.

The crisis of water supply from the Colorado is vividly represented by the so-called bathtub ring around Lake Mead, the vast reservoir behind Hoover Dam, showing how far below normal the water level has fallen.

As my colleague Ian James has reported, federal projections show that the risk is growing that both Lake Mead and Lake Powell, the reservoir behind Glen Canyon Dam, are approaching “dead pool” levels, below which water would no longer pass downstream through the dams.

The prospect has led to pressure from the federal government on water agencies in California and the six other basin states to drastically cut back on water use. So far, however, no agreements on cutbacks have emerged.

The ultimate danger is that Lake Mead reaches the “dead pool” stage. At the end of last month, Lake Mead was at 1,044.28 feet of surface elevation above sea level. That’s about 100 feet below its level in August 2003 and about 180 feet below its record elevation of 1,225 feet, reached in July 1983. When the level falls to 950 feet, the lake can no longer generate hydroelectricity. At 895 feet, the dam can’t release water downstream.

The long-term decline in Lake Mead’s capacity has been blamed mostly on global warming. But as I’ve reported before, the river’s enemies are both natural and man-made. It’s true that nature has placed the basin in a long-term drought. But human demands for water from the Colorado have far outstripped what it can provide — indeed, what it ever could provide.

That brings us back to the compact negotiations. The impulse for a high dam on the lower Colorado came largely from California — principally from growers in the Imperial Valley. They depended on the river for irrigation and desired a more reliable supply as well as flood control that could only be provided by a major dam.

Congress resisted approving the project unless the seven basin states of California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Wyoming could agree on how to apportion the river water among themselves.

The task of supervising the negotiations fell to Herbert Hoover, who was President Harding’s Commerce secretary.

The process was contentious. The upstream states were painfully aware that California was the most voracious user of the river’s water even though it had the smallest acreage within the basin.

All were convinced that California, the most-developed state of the seven, was plotting to appropriate more than its share of the water to stoke its continued development at their expense.

They were suspicious of Hoover, who though born in Iowa had made his home in California since becoming a member of the first graduating class at Stanford University in 1895.

Working with his deputy, Arthur Powell Davis — director of the U.S. Reclamation Bureau and a nephew of John Wesley Powell, the pioneering explorer of the Colorado and the Grand Canyon — Hoover overcame the states’ disagreements by promising that they all would receive enough water to provide for all their future economic growth.

They did this through connivance. Davis provided an estimate that the river’s annual volume averaged 16.4 million acre-feet. (One acre-foot, the equivalent of 325,851 gallons, is enough water to serve one or two average households today.)

That allowed the compact to be concluded with a guarantee that the upper basin states of Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico could pass 7.5 million acre-feet a year — measured as 10-year averages of 75 million acre-feet — to the lower states of California, Nevada and Arizona without sacrificing their own needs. All the states agreed on this formula except Arizona, which didn’t sign the compact until 1944.

(By then the state had all but gone to war with California over water rights on the river, dispatching a squad of National Guard troops to the river on a ferryboat to block construction of Parker Dam in 1934. The ferry was derisively dubbed the “Arizona navy” by a Times correspondent assigned to cover the skirmish. After the federal government imposed a truce, the guardsmen were reported to have returned home from the “war zone” as “conquering heroes.”)

The real flaw in the compact was no joke, however: Davis’ figure was a flagrant overestimate — as he certainly knew, having studied the Colorado for decades.

The 1899-1921 time span on which his figure was based was one of the wettest periods in the basin’s known history. Indeed, only four times since construction of Hoover Dam began in 1931 has the 10-year average reached 16.4 million acre-feet.

Current estimates place the average annual volume of the Colorado since 1906 at 14.7 million acre-feet; since 1991, the annual average is closer to 13.5 million.

Yet the portions of California and the West dependent on the river for their sustenance have grown as if its bounty is effectively limitless.

In 1935, President Franklin Roosevelt dedicated the dam from a podium overlooking the project, declaring that it had turned the willful river into “a great national possession.” Since that time, the population of the seven basin states has grown by more than 52 million, much of the growth fueled by the water and electricity the dam has provided.

For several decades, however, climate and hydrological experts have warned that there can be no soft landing from the restrictions that global warming are forcing upon the Colorado River’s historical beneficiaries.

Hard choices are becoming imperative. The federal government is effectively ordering that the basin states cut their water usage by 2 million to 4 million acre-feet a year.

Talk of draining Lake Powell to keep water in Lake Mead at a serviceable level is getting louder, notwithstanding the political and engineering obstacles standing in the way. Within basin states, especially California, water scarcity is exacerbating conflicts among growers, residential users and environmentalists.

The draconian cutbacks signaled by the federal government have been made necessary by inadequate action in the recent past.

As water and climate expert Peter Gleick told James recently, “If we had cut water use in the Colorado River over the last two decades to what we now understand to be the actual levels of water availability, there would be more water in the reservoirs today. The crisis wouldn’t be nearly as bad.”

The reckoning may have been long in coming, but it was inevitable. As long ago as 1893, John Wesley Powell — the uncle of Arthur Powell Davis, who perpetrated the foundational lie allowing the construction of Hoover Dam — foresaw the basin’s destiny.

Attending an irrigation congress in Los Angeles at which the coming paradise of water-driven growth was being proclaimed, Powell stood to deliver a hard truth. “I tell you, gentlemen,” he said, “you are piling up a heritage of conflict and litigation over water rights, for there is not sufficient water to supply the land.”

He was driven from the hall by a chorus of catcalls and boos, but time has proved him right.

 

Colossus

The Turbulent, Thrilling Saga of the Building of Hoover Dam

COLOSSUS

As breathtaking today as when it was completed, Hoover Dam ranks among America’s most awe-inspiring, if dubious, achievements.

This epic story of the dam—from conception to design to construction—by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik exposes the tremendous hardships and accomplishments of the men on the ground—and in the air—who built the dam and the demonic drive of Frank Crowe, the boss who pushed them beyond endurance.

It is a tale of the tremendous will exerted from start to finish, detailing the canny backroom dealings by Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt, the herculean engineering challenges Crowe faced, and the terrific union strikes by the men who daily fought to beat back the Colorado River.

Colossus tells an important part of the story of America’s struggle to pull itself out of the Great Depression by harnessing the power of its population and its natural resources.

A READER WRITES: Blake Davis and Freight Farms collaborative effort

By BLAKE DAVIS Guest Columnist Sep 11, 2022

Source ivpressonline.com

BLAKE DAVIS Guest Columnist

The Salton Sea is the biggest clean body of water in California. It is also the most toxic from agricultural runoff from the Imperial Valley and sewage flowing from Mexico into the New River which is then deposited into the sea. This scenario has been occurring for the last century and will continue unless an infrastructural change is made. I refer to the Salton Sea as the Chornobyl of California because of its toxic nature along with what has been displaced at the bottom of it. The Salton Sea was a test site for the Navy to test nuclear weapons and not all the contents of the testing, aircraft crashes, or airmen were retrieved. The severe drought poses a dangerous problem to the local constituents because of the toxicity of the playa that is exposed and constantly being blown over the southwestern part of the United States along with Northern Mexico. This causes respiratory complications along with different forms of cancer. The Salton Sea is along the Pacific Bird Highway and the exposed playa causes additional damage to the wildlife. Prospectively having a bigger negative impact on the western hemisphere of the world, distributed by migratory birds.

Salton Sea Area

The finding of white gold (lithium) hurts this scenario of faulty clean water infrastructure based on global demand and demand for progress within industries that utilize lithium. Plausibly rushing the mining process which could extend these problems way past their due date by complicating mining by not accurately and efficiently addressing these issues before mining starts. The Salton Sea is the biggest coagulation of lithium in the world which will influentially highlight our valley and our agriculture practices in a negative connotation.

This is where the solution I have been proposing on Twitter @Blake_S_Davis for the last 3 years comes into play. Hydroponics is the science of controlling every aspect of a plant’s environment to reduce stress which will increase quality along with the time of growth. Hydroponics conserves 90% of the water utilized in agriculture irrigation in the Imperial Valley traditionally defined as flood irrigation. Applying hydroponics to all crops but specifically forage crops should be the main goal for those who are being asked by the State Government to conserve clean water because of these inefficient water practices that have created this scenario of severe drought.

The short-term impact of hydroponics being applied at scale would replace 100% of the agricultural runoff with 90% more clean water flowing into the inlet of the Salton Sea. Which would put the Imperial Valley in a great position to renegotiate the delta of the New River efficaciously eliminating its existence in the United States. It would also free up the oppression occurring on the civil liberties of the local constituents while putting the Salton Sea in a better position to be revamped. This should be a collective goal that is seen as an achievable reality for the Imperial Valley.

Salton Sea

The long-term impact creates trust within the community by ensuring what is being done is in their best interest along with freeing up land mass for more economic opportunities. It creates an infrastructure that protects the local citizens’ civil liberties of one of the most valuable resources, clean water. Along with re-establishing the Salton Sea back to the tourist attraction it once was. Freight Farms are in 38 countries and 48 states and are doing research on my behalf to bring this idea to fruition along with cornering a specific part of the market that will not be forgotten about. “Freight Farms is the leader in the modular hydroponic farm market with a mission of creating a global infrastructure to revolutionize local access to fresh food.”

This solution was presented directly to J.B Hamby the director of the IID where it wasn’t given its due diligence because of the IID’s focus on protecting the commercial farmers of the Imperial Valley who have built empires through pollution and a lack of innovation from ignorance. I plan to directly compete with the product of all commercial farmers but initially and specifically those in the Imperial Valley.

The combination of commercial hydroponic forage crop farming and freight farms will position the Imperial Valley perfectly for the onset of the white gold boom that will occur within this next decade. My solution along with freight farms is the most viable and economically sound solution being introduced considering current export prices along with the importance of climate change via drought. For more information, please visit @Blake_S_Davis & @FreightFarms on Twitter.

Blake Davis, Fullerton

 

 

Lithium Valley? With push to EVs, all eyes are on the Salton Sea

Southern California could be the Middle East of this century. Companies are scrambling to get at the mineral stew bubbling beneath the Sonoran Desert.

By  | bstaggs@scng.com | Orange County Register – dailybulletin.com

 

Salton Sea Lithium Valley

Those drawn to the other-wordly landscape surrounding the Salton Sea, some 45 minutes southeast of Palm Springs, have long been lured by potential.

Potential to plant crops that help feed the country or solar panels to help power it in the wide open, affordable land in Imperial County. Potential to pursue bohemian, artistic lives in Bombay Beach or nearby Slab City. Potential to spot migratory birds who make their temporary home at this largest lake in California.

That potential hasn’t always panned out. With both local and imported water scarce, farmers sometimes are paid to keep their fields fallow. The solar industry hasn’t delivered the once-promised jobs or a huge spike in land values. And there are regular reports of massive bird and fish die-offs, with the sand of some lakeside beaches made from the bones of fish that couldn’t survive the shallow, salty lake’s oxygen-deprived waters.

But now, everyone from General Motors to the U.S. Department of Energy to Warren Buffet seems to believe the Salton Sea’s greatest potential so far remains untapped: its potential to become known the world over as Lithium Valley.

Demand for lithium has skyrocketed over the past 30 years, since the world’s lightest metal also happens to be fantastic at storing energy. Lithium’s ability to quickly charge, recharge and transfer lots of energy has made it the primary component in batteries for everything from laptops to pacemakers to cell phones. Now, lithium is the material of choice for batteries to store solar and wind energy — and to power electric vehicles.

Tens of millions of EV batteries soon will be needed each year. In August, California announced a plan to ban the sale of new gas-powered vehicles starting in 2035, and more than a dozen states are expected to follow suit. And federal lawmakers have passed several funding packages that also push consumers and car manufacturers toward EVs, with countries around the world pursuing similar goals.

Unfortunately, lithium isn’t particularly abundant or easy to get at. So the growing demand has triggered a geopolitical scramble — sometimes called a “white gold rush,” in reference to lithium’s silvery-white color — to find new, cost effective ways to source the material.

Lithium Valley.

That’s where the Salton Sea Geothermal Field comes in.

Researchers believe there may be enough lithium bubbling a mile or more beneath the desert adjacent to the sea to meet domestic needs for the foreseeable future. They believe there might even be enough lithium left over that the U.S. could export the prized material to other countries.

Some locals remain understandably skeptical. But experts working on these plans insist the type of lithium extraction operations they’re eyeing, which aren’t yet happening anywhere in the world, present few environmental problems while offering significant economic potential for the region.

Salton Sea water managers await toxic algae bloom test results as drought intensifies problem

SOURCE: News Channel 3 – kesq

As of today, it’s not clear if there’s a cause for concern over any toxic algae blooms at the Salton Sea.

The California State Water Resources Control Board has yet to release test results from samples submitted by Imperial County Environmental Health officials this week.

The state works with Riverside and Imperial counties to manage the Salton Sea, as the waterway spans across both counties.

Toxic Water

As of June 30 2022, there were “no new observations made of the bloom for 30 days”, according to the State Water Resources Control Board.

The alert noted “observations of scum and surface accumulation of algal material present at this site indicating elevated health risk to humans and animals. Surface accumulations may become stranded along shoreline, children and dogs should avoid contact.”

It also noted “the exact location, extent and toxicity of the reported bloom may not be accurate and may not be affecting the entire waterbody,” therefore its recommended the waterbody manager be contacted for current conditions since “the bloom may still be present or may have subsided.”

County environmental officials partner with the state to help advise the public in the surrounding community if a toxic algae bloom is detected.

Salton Sea

“The last time we posted signage was in mid-July, so the detection would’ve been the week prior,” said Vanessa Ramirez, Environmental Health Compliance Specialist for Imperial County.

However, unless testing is conducted, county officials don’t always know whether or not toxic algae is present at the Salton Sea. If a potential harmful algal bloom is observed and reported, then county officials will visit the site and conduct an investigation to make a determination.

Currently, the state water managers conduct what’s called holiday testing. “The state water board has a program for Memorial Day, July 4, and for Labor Day. Since we’re local, we’ll go out there on their behalf, do the sampling, and send the sample to the state” for testing, said Vanessa Ramirez, Environmental Health Compliance Specialist for Imperial County.

Depending on the level of danger determined, action is then taken to address the bloom. Those steps can range from putting up signs warning the public to closing waterways for recreational use.

Toxic algae blooms used to be more seasonal, but that’s no longer the case due to a variety of reasons, including warmer temperatures and California’s ongoing drought.

When water recedes, its allows for “an increase in nutrient activity in a particular area,” according to Jeff Lamoure, Deputy Director of Environmental Health for Imperial County.

“You see maybe a concentration of the Cyanotoxins in the water that causes them to bloom more frequently. You’re not having as much water movement because of the receding shorelines, so they’re kind of working together to causes these activities to increase,” added Lamoure.

Existing warnings for people to stay out of the water due to dangerous algae blooms in Lake Elsinore, in western Riverside County, and Big Bear Lake, in San Bernardino County, are prompting growing interest on the current status of algae blooms at the Salton Sea.

The lake, located in southern Riverside and northern Imperial counties, has had a history of toxic algae blooms in previous years.

Exposure to toxic algae blooms can cause severe illness among people and animals, and death among wildlife in some instances.

VIDEO

A Dead Sea. The history of one of North America’s most polluted bodies of water.

By Kyle Paoletta

thenation.com

The United States’ century-old ambition to impound and divvy up every drop of water that could be wrung from its most arid stretches began with a flood. A private firm called the California Development Company (CDC) completed a canal in 1901 that zigzagged across the state’s border with Mexico in order to connect the Colorado River to a dry riverbed that aspiring farmers had already begun to section off for themselves, heeding the proclamation by the newly founded Imperial Valley Press that the region constituted “the most fertile body of arid land on the continent.”

The former bed of the Salton Sea, 2019. (David McNew / Getty Images for Lumix)

Only two years later, the CDC’s canal was filled with silt, and the customers who had paid up-front for rights to water that could no longer be delivered started filing lawsuits. The CDC dug a new ditch next to the original canal, but in its desperation to act quickly, the company neglected to build any means of controlling how much of the river was diverted into this new channel: If the Colorado flooded, the excess water had nowhere to go but toward the Imperial Valley. To make matters worse, 1905 was an unusually wet year, and by autumn the Colorado was flowing with the same force as Niagara Falls. The CDC’s diversion held, but that only served to funnel the entire river downhill into the valley’s center, a vast salt plain then known as the Salton Sink. It would take two years before the river was contained. Once it was, California had a new body of water, the Salton Sea, almost twice the size of Lake Tahoe.

The Salton Sea was formed before the Hoover Dam, before Lake Powell, before the aqueducts that stretch for hundreds of miles across the West. But there were many more new water features on the horizon: The Bureau of Reclamation, created to develop a “system of nationally-aided irrigation for the arid reaches of the far West,” began building dams across the region in the first decade of the 1900s. It also acquired control of many private water schemes in order to subsidize the price of the water delivered to farmers and residents of the future communities that were being built by urban developers.

The West became dependent on these waterworks as soon as they were constructed, even as their forerunner, the Salton Sea, was slowly transforming into a surreal and toxic landmark. The so-called sea’s salinity began to rise as soon as it was formed, because its water evaporated steadily in the unrelenting sunshine. Over the following decades, the lost water began to be replenished by the runoff from the acres of farms and feedlots spreading across its southern edge. But as the basin was refilling, the runoff was turning the Salton Sea into one of the most polluted bodies of water in the West—a lake that gives off a sulfuric stench of eggs and kills migrating birds by the thousands. The western shore, meanwhile, was littered with detritus from weapons testing by the United States military, and along the eastern shore you could find a tourist town called Bombay Beach that would be all but abandoned in the 1970s after being flooded with runoff. Bombay Beach has since found a second life as an artists’ colony that, starting in 2015, has staged a yearly “biennale” that bills itself as a “renegade celebration of art, music, and philosophy that takes place on the literal edge of western civilization.” But everywhere around the Salton Sea, the shoreline is receding, leaving thousands of acres of polluted playa—the earth that remains after the water has evaporated—which, once it becomes airborne on the wind, produces some of the worst asthma rates in California.

See full article

Digging in the dirt: California mining firms seek to clean up lithium’s production footprint

By DW – Made for minds

Three large mining projects based in California’s “Lithium Valley” aim to recover lithium with minimal environmental impacts. They have the potential to simplify the global lithium supply chain.

California’s rapidly shrinking lake is at the forefront of efforts to make the US a major global player in lithium production

About 200 miles (321 kilometers) east of Los Angeles lies the Salton Sea, California’s largest lake by area. It was once a recreation destination and home to a highly productive fishery, but in recent decades the lake has begun to dry up. Now the region has become famous for its most valuable mineral resource — lithium.

Until a decade ago, lithium was mainly used for glass and ceramic production. Now, roughly 70% of lithium is used for batteries. As electric vehicles continue to gain popularity, global lithium demand is skyrocketing.

Last year, US President Joe Biden signed an executive order requiring half of all new cars sold in the United States in 2030 to be zero-emission electric vehicles (EVs). This was seen as a bold step toward reducing carbon emissions, but critics point out that the US isn’t prepared to manufacture electric vehicles at that level. A critical limiting factor is that the US produces very little lithium domestically.

Similarly, the European Parliament approved a mandate that all new car sales need to be zero-emission EVs by 2035. But Europe also depends heavily on imports to meet its lithium demand.

Access to a steady supply of lithium is pivotal for the US’s and Europe’s e-mobility transition, which is why the Salton Sea’s mineral resources have suddenly gained attention.

Top lithium brine deposit

As the edges of the Salton Sea recede, pools of salty, lithium-rich brine are left below ground. In this way the death of the Salton Sea, which is being caused partly by drought conditions worsened by climate change, is becoming part of the solution for mitigating climate change.

Michael McKibben, a geochemist and research professor at University of California Riverside, leads a study analyzing lithium resources in the area.

“I’ve taken both a conservative approach and an optimistic approach to estimating the amount of lithium,” McKibben told DW. “It’s somewhere between 1 and 6 million metric tons of dissolved lithium metal in the brines.” (Or a lithium carbonate equivalent of 5 to 32 million metric tons.)

According to McKibben, that makes this area one of the top lithium brine deposits in the world.

Three companies are racing to tap into this immense lithium resource. If their projects succeed, they will establish a method for extracting lithium without the negative impacts of conventional lithium mining.

The three companies involved are Energy Source Minerals, Berkshire Hathaway Energy (BHE), and Controlled Thermal Resources (CTR). Energy Source Minerals appears to be the closest to their goal. They aim to collect battery-grade lithium at commercial scale by 2024. Berkshire Hathaway Energy has set 2026 as a goal for beginning commercial production. Controlled Thermal Resources has gained investment backing from General Motors.

Don’t call it mining

What sets these projects apart from conventional lithium mining is their connection to geothermal power plants, 11 of which are already established in the area. Geothermal plants pump up hot brine from underground and use the steam to generate electricity before re-injecting the brine back into the ground. Now they will add one more step — removing lithium from the brine before it’s re-injected.

“It’s important not to call it mining,” said McKibben, who prefers the term “lithium recovery,” because compared with conventional lithium mining, this process has minimal environmental impacts.

Conventionally, lithium is extracted in the form of hard rock, or from salts collected in solar ponds.

Hard rock lithium mining involves digging vast, open pits to pull out rocks like spodumene, which then need to be roasted and dissolved in acid. It’s a fossil fuel-intensive process, and has a devastating impact on the local environment. The vast majority of hard rock mines are in Australia, and to a lesser extent, China and Africa.

Salar pond mining involves pumping brine to the surface and leaving it in shallow pools. After the water evaporates, lithium-rich mineral salts remain. Salar ponds, also called salt evaporation ponds, take up thousands of square kilometers and deplete groundwater reserves, especially in desert regions where local populations depend on them. This method is most prevalent in Argentina, Chile and Bolivia.

Compared with salar ponds or hard rock mine pits, a geothermal power plant is relatively small, so direct lithium recovery projects require much less land use. The process avoids both the destruction and waste created by hard rock mining. It has a much smaller effect on groundwater sources than solar pond mining, because brine is re-injected into the ground after its use.

On-site battery production could simplify EV supply chain

In addition to lithium production, there are plans to build battery production factories nearby, which could change the EV battery supply chain on a global scale.

Today the vast majority of lithium is shipped to China to be refined. Refined lithium is then shipped to Japan for cathode production, and cathodes are shipped to the US for battery production.

By manufacturing batteries on-site, the carbon emissions from shipping lithium around the world are cut. Additionally, the US gains the strategic advantage of controlling part of the lithium supply chain, which could be of vital importance if conflicts between China and the US were to trigger sanctions.

Proponents of the project say that battery manufacturing plants would create thousands of jobs in a county that currently has an unemployment rate which is three times higher than the US average. Also, these projects will amount to significant income for the state of California, due to a recently approved tax on lithium production.

The beginnings of a clean lithium revolution?

Internationally, other projects are developing similar processes for use in other regions. Lake Resources is developing a project in Puna, Argentina, and Vulcan Energy Resources is working to bring the process to its geothermal power plants in Germany.

“We are very familiar with the developments in California,” said Horst Kreuter, CEO and founder of Vulcan Energy Resources. “Our technical director for lithium extraction was involved in lithium extraction in California in a leading role for over six years” he told DW.

Vulcan Energy aims to begin commercial production of lithium in Germany by 2024-2025.

If these projects prove successful, a path to cleaner lithium production may be just around the corner.

Edited by: Uwe Hessler

Lake that predated Salton Sea came and went as the Colorado River changed course

By Thomas Fudge / Science and Technology Reporter -kpbs

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation – This undated map of the Salton Sea basin shows the shape and size of a full Lake Cahuilla as indicated by the dotted red line.

Before the Colorado River was tamed by dams and dikes it was a free flowing, flooding river that often changed course, sometimes dramatically. Though it typically flowed south to the Gulf of California, in years of powerful floods it would flow into the Salton Sea Basin, and fill it up to form what we call Lake Cahuilla.

Since about 612 B.C. Lake Cahuilla has filled up seven times, the last time in 1733. The flooding Colorado would create a huge lake that stretched from what’s now Palm Springs, California in the north to well beyond Mexicali, Mexico in the south.

Thomas Rockwell is a geology professor at San Diego State who examined charcoal and other organic matter to determine when the lake filled and receded.

“Before we dammed up the Colorado River, the Colorado River would flood, seasonally. And during six of these periods in the last 1,100 years, the Colorado flowed, unabated, into the Salton trough, and filled Lake Cahuilla to an elevation of about 40 feet,” said Rockwell.

Rockwell adds that when it filled with Colorado River water the lake would be 100 meters deep at its deepest part and, as Rockwell says, it would have an elevation of 13 meters (40 feet) above sea level. It would dry up when the Colorado reset its course toward the gulf of California.

The study sheds light on the human relationship with the land. Rockwell says archeological evidence shows how American Indian populations adapted to the changing lake.

“You had various Native American communities, the Cocopah, the Cahuilla, that would live along the shoreline and fish when the water was high. The Cahuilla are known historically to farm the bottomlands when the lake wasn’t there,” he said.

The Salton Sea Basin is at the southern end of the San Andreas Fault. Rockwell said his ulterior motive, as a geologist, was to study the history of earthquakes in the region.

“Now that we have this high resolution study of lakes, we’re putting together a high resolution study of earthquakes for the last 1,100 years,” Rockwell said. “Most of the earthquakes on the southern San Andreas fault occurred while the lake was full.”

He said the weight and the pressure of a full Lake Cahuilla would weaken the strength of an earthquake fault, making it more likely to fail.

The Salton Sea was created in 1905 when the Colorado River breached a dike and flooded part of the basin. What some view as a technical failure of flood control, Rockwell sees as a natural occurrence, given the history of Lake Cahuilla.

When asked what he thought of efforts to maintain the Salton Sea, which has been sustained through farm runoff, Rockwell said he understands the importance of the Salton Sea to migratory birds. But in its natural state, he said the Salton Sea would be entirely dry today.