Sea Change

How UCR is helping save California’s largest body of water — and the people who live there.

UC Riverside
May 23, 2019 · 3 min read

TT which sits about 100 miles east of San Diego and directly on top of the San Andreas fault, is shrinking, and the contaminants that had been hidden below the water are now spreading to nearby communities as toxic dust.

While Californians are acutely aware of the danger posed by the San Andreas and its promised “Big One,” the Salton Sea’s demise is a less well-known threat. Maybe that’s because the shock-and-awe destruction of a massive earthquake feels more tangible than the invisible menace of what one researcher calls “an unchecked, slow-moving environmental disaster.”

Or could it be because it’s hard to be scared of something that still looks so beautiful?

Despite its troubles, the Salton Sea’s people persist, some for multiple generations, others as newly arrived migrant farmworkers. In the following pages, you’ll learn how we wound up in this mess, discover the comprehensive nature of the crisis, hear from Salton Sea residents about their lives and families, and get a clearer picture of how UCR experts are working to better understand the complex challenges, while also offering potential solutions.

Table of Contents

History After the Flood: An epic tale of man versus nature in the harsh California desert. By John Warren

Water The Worth of Water: Solving one of California’s most pressing environmental crises will involve rethinking how resources are managed across the Southwest. By Tess Eyrich

Earth What Lies Beneath: At the bottom of the Salton Sea lies an ecosystem run amok. By Sarah Nightingale

Air Dust to Dust: How the Salton Sea’s toxic dust is poisoning the community. By Iqbal Pittalwala

Fire The Shimmering Horizon: Salton Sea residents — and their stories — emerge before the oppressive summer heat. By Susan Straight

The Salton Sea through image (Stan Lim / UCR)

UCR Magazine

The Magazine for UC Riverside

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