California's largest lake, the Salton Sea lies in the Coachella Valley wholly by accident, the result of a burst dam in 1905 which let the Colorado River run free into the valley.
A booming tourist attraction in the 50's and 60's, marketed as a 'miracle in the desert,' it became Palm Springs but with beaches. Over half a million annual visitors including the celebrities du jour like Frank Sinatra and James Dean who came to fish, sun and enjoy the abundant wildlife around the lake.
But it wouldnít last.
The sea quickly became something of an ecological nightmare. Surrounded by nearly half a million acres of agricultural land, water from this land runs off into the sea, taking with it pesticides, salts, and heavy metals such as arsenic. Since the 1970ís, the lake is steadily shrinking. As water levels drop, the dry lake bed is exposed, and desert winds kick up toxic dust, causing hazardous air pollution for the surrounding communities, such as the Torres-Martinez Band of Desert Cahuilla Indians, who have lived in this valley 1876.
With support from the US Environmental Protection Agency and California Department of Water Resources, and collaborating with implementation partners including Land Life Company, the tribe has developed the Salton Sea Protection Project to provide water treatment, habitat restoration, and sediment stabilisation to the rapidly shrinking lake.
Together, we hope to halt the degradation of this unique ecosystem, for the benefits of human and bird life alike.Left: High salinity and toxic run-off are making life near impossible for the fish and birdlife that used to flourish in the Salton Sea