The Salton Sea in its actual form originated in 1905, after massive snowfalls over the nearby mountains of Colorado produced major floods. Canals were created from the Colorado river to irrigate the desertic Imperial Valley and beyond. But those canals failed to maintain the massive flows of the spring 1905. After costly repairs in man and resources, the floods were contained, and the situation improved in the valley. Agriculture was extended and the lake remaining at the lowest point, the Salton Sea, became a renowned touristic destination in the region and beyond. The agricultural outflows were used to maintain the level of the lake in such an arid environment.
However, during decades, chemical residues kept accumulating into the lake, igniting a timing bomb which first consequence was the loss of tourism, repelled by the increasing salinity of the lake and the strong smell due to prosperous algae in the waters of the lake. After the 1970’s, only the agricultural sector remained around the lake with a few communities like Bombay Beach or Slab City.
Increasing needs in water supply amongst the ever-growing population of southern California forced lawmakers to reduce the output in destination of agriculture, and eventually into the Salton Sea. The level of the lake lowered dramatically over the last two decades, leaving the once waterfront villas in the middle of dry mud. The salinity keeps increasing, algae thrive, and the fish suffocate. The other consequence is that the chemicals that were once at the bottom of the lake is now exposed to the air, transforming into a light dust that flies off easily, especially with the strong winds that occurs regularly in the valley. Molecules of pesticides, insecticides, fungicides and fertilizers are scattered through the air, creating a serious sanitary and environmental situation amongst the people living around the lake. Projects are made to stop the decrease of the water but with a lot of inertia to take actions and a lot of lateness already.
The Salton Sea is, since its birth, a representation of the development of modern societies and a perfect incarnation of the environmental issues we must confront with today. Now it leaves us with the remaining ghosts of our once dreamed future, a future where what we call Nature can be treated as an exterior entity. Our conception of nature is that of a representation, a mental construction, like a décor we evolve in. As long as the signs of our abuses were out of our sight, we didn’t question this relationship. But today is the day after the party, this moment when you must face your responsibilities again. It doesn’t mean that we are going to change anything. But in the years to come, we will not be able to say that we didn’t know what was going to happen.
Chapter 1: The Desert
Chapter 2: The Water
Chapter 3: The Agriculture & other human activities
Chapter 4: The Lake