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Pacific Institute Insights is the staff blog of the Pacific Institute, one of the world’s leading nonprofit research groups on sustainable and equitable management of natural resources. For more about what we do, click here.

  • Fits and Starts at the Salton Sea

    By Michael Cohen, Senior Research Associate

    May 16, 2016

    Daniel M. Edwards
    Daniel M. Edwards

    The fortunes and prospects of California’s Salton Sea have ebbed and flowed over the years. Currently, the Sea is enjoying renewed attention and funding, after almost a decade of neglect and indifference. The State of California is poised to dedicate $80 million to efforts to protect and revitalize (a small portion of) the Salton Sea, prompted in large part by a fast-approaching tipping point that will see a dramatic shrinking of the Sea, devastating its rich ecosystem and imperiling the health of hundreds of thousands of people in the region.

    …»

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  • National Geographic ScienceBlogs: The Death of the Aral Sea

    by Peter Gleick, President

    September 26, 2014

    In the 20th century, society was either ignorant of, or ignored, the consequences of bad water management. The goal was economic development at all costs. Over the past few decades, we’ve learned about the ecological and social implications of the misuse of water, and some efforts have been made to protect natural ecosystems, restore a modicum of flows, bring local communities into the discussion about water policy and infrastructure. These are steps in the right direction.

    But sometimes our failures have been monumental — and uncorrected.

    Perhaps the best, or worst, example, is the complete destruction of the Aral Sea. Once one of the four largest lakes in the world by surface area, fed by the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers, it has now been destroyed by the complete diversion of inflows to grow crops — largely cotton — in the arid regions of  Uzbekistan (with parts of the watershed of the Sea in Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan).

    All 24 species of fish endemic to the Aral Sea are now extinct. Dust storms spread respiratory diseases. And the local climate has been altered.

    …»

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  • Dead fish at the Salton Sea

    Another Grim Day for the Salton Sea

    By Michael Cohen, Water Program Senior Research Associate

    July 3, 2013

    California Governor Jerry Brown signed the state budget last Thursday. Unfortunately, the governor line-item vetoed funding for the Salton Sea Financial Assistance Program (FAP), a program requested and strongly supported by the Pacific Institute and other organizations. The Institute has written extensively about the Salton Sea’s current and future problems. In four and a half years, rapid and extreme reductions in the volume of water flowing into the Salton Sea will cause catastrophic ecological changes and will very likely lead to widespread dust storms, adversely affecting human health in both the Imperial and Coachella valleys. We desperately need programs like the FAP to direct funds to local habitat and air quality management projects that can be built quickly and cheaply, to offset some of these impacts and to demonstrate what can be accomplished at the Salton Sea.

    Instead, we get more delay. …»

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