The Salton Sea—An Important Part of the Colorado River’s History and Future

An image of a vegetation enhancement project at the Salton Sea led by the Quantification Settlement Agreement Joint Powers Authority (QSA JPA) of which the San Diego County Water Authority is a partnering agency with the Imperial Irrigation District (IID), the Coachella Valley Water District, and the state. The work of the QSA JPA is separate but complementary to the state’s restoration efforts led by the California Natural Resources Agency. Photo courtesy of IID.

In the ongoing saga that is the Colorado River, the Salton Sea has certainly found its place as an important piece of the river’s story. The sea, an approximately 365-square mile inland lake, crosses two counties, Imperial and Riverside, is home to small communities in both counties (Salton City, Bombay Beach, Desert Shores and Mecca), and to an important California tribe, the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla. The Salton Sea basin has been filled over

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A Significant River Milestone Was Reached This Month

An image of Lake Mead taken in March 2024. Photo by Dennis Davis, water resources specialist for the San Diego County Water Authority.

Though it occurred without much fanfare or media coverage, a significant milestone was reached on May 6 in the Colorado River’s near-term management when the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) signed the Record of Decision (ROD) to guide river operations through 2026. Though an important step, it was exactly what was anticipated: Reclamation approved the plan submitted by the Lower Basin to conserve 3 million acre-feet (MAF) of water through 2026 to help the river. While the ROD simply confirmed Reclamation’s intent to implement the Lower Basin Plan when it identified the plan for near-term actions on the river as the preferred alternative in March, the significance of this latest milestone is worth a discussion.

First, a bit of background is in order (though many

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Earth Day Provides Chance to Reflect on the Ongoing Efforts to Save Water

A file photo of an Imperial Valley field and canal. Under the 2003 Quantification Settlement Agreement, made possible largely through the conserved water transfer agreement between the Imperial Irrigation District and the San Diego County Water Authority, hundreds of thousands of acre feet of water are conserved annually in a mutually beneficial way that supports agriculture and protects the environment.

This week, as Earth Day, a global event established in 1970 to promote environmental protection, was celebrated, it seems like a good time to discuss the efforts to sustain water resources, especially in the West along the Colorado River Basin. It is well known whether you are a water manager, grower, or someone living in the West, that we are in an extended period of drought brought about by climate change. While we’ve had a couple of good years thanks to Mother Nature, it doesn’t change the fact

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