As water tensions heighten, Arizona and California are fighting over the Colorado River. And people who live around Southern California’s Salton Sea may bear some of the repercussions.
The Salton Sea is California’s largest lake, but not its most picturesque or fragrant. Formed in 1905 when the Colorado River overflowed, it’s been fed by 50 agricultural channels carrying nitrogen, fertilizers, pesticides and a little water. It’s not safe for swimming or even boating, and is known for the alternative lifestyles/lawlessness of nearby Slab City and the strong aroma of dead fish.
Like most water bodies in the west, the Salton Sea is drying up as drought continues. Unfortunately for the inhabitants, the wind kicks dried particles into the air, making for bad air quality. The area is sorely in need of a major cleanup, for the health of the environment and of the humans who live there.
But Arizona Senator Mark Kelly wants the feds to withhold environmental cleanup money until California promises to use less Colorado River water. The crisis is no surprise. In June, federal officials told the seven western states who rely on Colorado River water to dramatically cut their usage. Reservoirs are dropping so low their ability to produce hydropower is at risk. But the states missed an August deadline to make a plan.
The seven states involved are Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Wyoming and Colorado. Mexico and some tribes also hold rights to Colorado River water. Nevada, Arizona and Mexico have already faced mandatory supply cuts. California hasn’t yet conserved nearly the amount it needs to.
Now, some Californians are outraged that Kelly wants to use the Salton Sea as a bargaining chip. Withholding necessary funds for cleanup projects around the Salton Sea “would affect real communities already suffering from higher rates of asthma and other health problems,” said Silvia Paz, executive director for Alianza Coachella Valley, in a statement.
In Arizona, Kelly doesn’t think California should get so much water and the expensive cleanup project.
“I’m not going to let California get away with that,” Kelly said, as quoted by the L.A. Times. “You can’t hold the Colorado River hostage with funding for something else. Doesn’t matter what it is. I mean, this is water we’re talking about.”
Things will only get more heated the longer the drought continues.
Via L.A. Times
Lead image via Unsplash