Saving the Salton Sea

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Professor Tim Krantz is charting solutions for California’s largest lake

When it comes to the Salton Sea, Professor of Environmental Studies Tim Krantz is an internationally recognized authority on the past, present and future of California’s largest lake.

There has been renewed interest in the Salton Sea because of its increasing salinity and the state’s drought. Recently, Krantz—who has served as the Salton Sea database program director and a member of the Salton Sea Science Subcommittee—has been interviewed by publications around the world, including the Los Angeles Times. “The Salton Sea is the epitome of water conflicts that are exacerbated by the drought in the Pacific Southwest,” he said. “The clock is ticking, and there’s been very little movement.”

There are dozens of conceptual plans on how to save the Salton Sea, from creating a 15-mile dam across the middle to putting up more than 100 miles of dykes, but “number one, all of those proposals for partial sea solutions rely primarily on water from the Colorado River, which is not a reliable water supply right now,” Krantz said. “Also, these are huge infrastructure projects set astride the San Andreas fault. They’re vulnerable to a catastrophic seismic event, which could render an $8 billion to $12 billion infrastructure project into pieces.”

Krantz is taking a fresh look at whole sea solutions, including connecting the Salton Sea to the Sea of Cortez or to Carlsbad through 12-foot diameter pipes that can be bored through mountains. “We know how to make tunnels. We know how to do all this,” he said. “The push now is to reevaluate sea-to-sea connections. The only water we can rely upon is the ocean.” Krantz would like to organize an intensive geodesign workshop, working with Esri—Environmental Systems Research Institute Inc., headquartered in the city of Redlands—to bring the best pipeline and renewable energy experts together with all the technical GIS support they need in order to evaluate and come up with sea-to-sea proposals. “That’s really what’s needed to regain some real focus on what we can do,” he said. “I’m optimistic that the solutions are out there. We know how to do this. We just need to decide on what to do.”

Watch KCET report featuring Tim Krantz

Listen to 89.3 KPCC interview featuring Tim Krantz

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