Lake Isabella Watershed Management

Can the artists save the Salton Sea?

By David Kline

December is known for wildfires, but it is also a time of rebirth. The desert is in the process of regeneration, the forests are blossoming, and the mountains are regathering their leaves as an early snow and freezing rain returns to the Rockies. The salton sea is also in the process of rebirth. In the early 1800s, the salton sea covered nearly 900,000 hectares, but due to unregulated industrial farming, the sea shrank to a mere 5,000 hectares in the 1920s, and only 1,000 ha after that.

More recently, however, a number of local agricultural reforms have taken place. In 1973, the California Water Quality Control Board approved a plan to restore the salinity and restore the ecosystem of the coastal strip by establishing a watershed management area. The plan established the Lake Isabella Watershed Management Organization (LIWMO), and in 1987, LIWMO established ten priority watersheds. The ten priority watersheds are the Salton Sea, the Colorado River watershed and other coastal waters.

The mission of the Lake Isabella Watershed Management is to protect the health and ecological integrity of the watershed by conserving, restoring and sustaining water quality and quantity, managing water resources, and providing a system of public trust and natural resource management. Although the watershed is smaller and less populated than the original, it has the potential to become a similar success story. There are currently approximately 1,600 people living in the watershed, and it is now estimated that there will be more than 2,000 by the year 2020.

Lake Isabella lies in the Central Valley, about 40km west of the southern end of the Salton Sea. The Salton Sea is a salt lake, but its main ingredient is evaporated water that runs out into the Salton Sea through the roof of an ancient crater formed when an asteroid hit the Earth thousands of years ago.

A major threat to the survival of the Salton Sea comes from two of its biggest threats: climate change and the development of a septic

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