Science and policy dilemmas in the management of agricultural waste waters: The case of the Salton Sea, CA, USA

Edward P. Glenn, Michael J. Cohen, Jason I. Morrison, Carlos Valdés-Casillas, Kevin Fitzsimmons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

18 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The Salton Sea in California, a repository for agricultural drainage water and sewage effluent from the United States and Mexico, is increasing in salinity and may soon be too saline to support fish and other elements of the present food chain. Massive fish kills and bird die-offs in recent years have led to a perception that this is an ecosystem in trouble, and an initiative to restore the Salton Sea is underway. Engineering proposals to stabilize the salinity and volume of the Salton Sea could cost a billion dollars or more to install and ten million dollars per year or more to operate, and could adversely affect adjacent ecosystems, with no certainty that the problems of the sea would be remedied. On the other hand, allowing salinity to increase will likely lead to a dramatic change in the species composition of the sea over the next two decades. We consider the possible ecological consequences of allowing salinity to increase in the Salton Sea to levels similar to other salt lakes in the region. We also consider the possible adverse ecological affects of engineering proposals which would discharge contaminated Salton Sea water into the Gulf of California or divert excess Colorado River water that now flows to the Colorado River delta to the Salton Sea. We consider the benefits of an alternative proposal, which would handle the problem within the Salton Basin by installing designed wildlife habitats around the Sea while allowing the main body to become hypersaline. We recommend a set of principles which should guide policy decisions regarding restoration of the Salton Sea.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)413-423
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Science and Policy
Volume2
Issue number4-5
StatePublished - Aug 1999

Fingerprint

Agricultural wastes
Wastewater
water
Ecosystems
Fish
science
Rivers
management
Water
Birds
Sewage
Drainage
Restoration
Lakes
salinity
Effluents
Salts
dollar
Chemical analysis
river

Keywords

  • Agriculture wastewater
  • Evaporation ponds
  • Irrigation
  • Salton Sea
  • Selenium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Geography, Planning and Development

Cite this

Science and policy dilemmas in the management of agricultural waste waters : The case of the Salton Sea, CA, USA. / Glenn, Edward P.; Cohen, Michael J.; Morrison, Jason I.; Valdés-Casillas, Carlos; Fitzsimmons, Kevin.

In: Environmental Science and Policy, Vol. 2, No. 4-5, 08.1999, p. 413-423.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Glenn, Edward P. ; Cohen, Michael J. ; Morrison, Jason I. ; Valdés-Casillas, Carlos ; Fitzsimmons, Kevin. / Science and policy dilemmas in the management of agricultural waste waters : The case of the Salton Sea, CA, USA. In: Environmental Science and Policy. 1999 ; Vol. 2, No. 4-5. pp. 413-423.
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