Open Letter to California’s Imperial Irrigation District

According to Circle of Blue Water Podcast [1]:

“California’s Imperial Irrigation District is suing over being excluded from the Colorado River drought contingency plan. The legal challenge came the same day as President Trump signed legislation to implement the plan, which took years of negotiation between the seven river basin states. The agreement intends to protect major reservoirs on the Colorado River from falling so low that they cannot provide water or power. Imperial Irrigation District, the largest water user in the basin, refused to join the plan unless the federal government included $200 million to address health and environmental dangers at the Salton Sea, a saline lake southeast of Los Angeles. Other parties working on the Colorado River plan thought the Salton Sea demand would stall the process and worked out a way to exclude Imperial Irrigation District.”

Law Suit?

You are suing because you were not included into the Colorado River drought contingency plan after you decided not to participate????

A better Idea…

Refill the Salton Sea with ocean water; which will work to cure the drought.

Cure the Drought?

I know; this sounds impossible, but the main reason there is a drought is your fault.

Why the Fault of California’s Imperial Irrigation District?

As always there is no one cause/fault, but there can be a primary cause. In this case the many causes can include Climate Change, but I do not think this is the primary cause. I believe the primary cause of the drought is the extraction of water from the Colorado River watershed [2]. For people inside the watershed; this is common knowledge, but for the others… The Colorado River is the source of drinking and irrigation water for many places far removed from the Colorado River watershed. The water has been being removed since 1870 [3] with increasing quantiles in more recent years. Now large quantities are being channeled or piped great distances to be used for drinking water, crop irrigation and various industrial purposes. Many of the users of the Colorado River water are within the watershed. What they use is returned to the river. This is not a problem. You are the largest water user in the basin, and what you use is not returned to the river, it is eventually expelled into the Pacific Ocean. This has broken the local water cycle.

What is the water cycle?

The water cycle is somewhat simple, but complex in that it has many moving parts. Let me explain the simple. Water evaporates from its place on the ground and is taken up as water vapor to be turned into rain and snow. The rain and snow are redeposited on land and makes its way into the river. The river flows and returns the water to the point where it started so that it can be evaporated again. I know that this is oversimplified, but good for a brief description of the process.

Is there evidence that the water cycle is broken?

Yes. There is clear evidence. It is obvious because the Colorado River runs dry [4] before it reaches its outlet in the ocean. This is not normal for a river to have a smaller flow at its end than in its middle.

How can this be fixed?

This can be fixed with some relatively simple engineering tasks. These tasks will require much less effort that was expended to divert the water. With the completion of these tasks it is almost assured that the water cycle can be healed and the drought will subside.

Task One:

Talk to your friends in Mexico and get them to fill Laguna Salada, Mexico with ocean water from an open-flow channel dug between the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California) and Laguna Salada. Laguna Salada was fed by the Colorado River, but Laguna Salada has been essentially dry since 2000 [5]. There is a water path from Laguna Salada to the Sea of Cortez intended to channel excess water to the ocean. The task which needs completion is to deepen this water path so that the water flow is reversed, and Laguna Salada is filled with ocean water. Once Laguna Salada is refilled with water; that water can begin its work to replenish the Colorado River watershed with rain and snow.

Task Two:

Create the Borrego Valley Reservoir; a new ocean water reservoir between Salton Sea and Laguna Salada. This reservoir is to be fed by Laguna Salada. I am not sure that anyone has ever proposed this before; regardless, this is a logical next phase in repairing the water cycle. The work would require a gravity flow cannel to be dug from Laguna Salada into southern California, where a Borrego Valley Reservoir can be built using the excavated soil from the construction of the canal. This area is also below sea level and is desert with little habitation. The Borrego Valley Reservoir will provide additional water surface area from which water can evaporate to replenish the water cycle rain and snow.

Task Three:

Refill the Salton Sea with ocean water by a restricted flow channel from the Borrego Valley Reservoir. The optimum fix for the water cycle would be to refill Lake Cahuilla [6], but this would dislocate many area residents so it likely will not occur. The best alternative is to refill the Salton Sea to its historic optimum level. This can be done by a gravity flow restricted water release from the Borrego Valley Reservoir. The water could be used for power generation as it travels to the Salton Sea, but this enhancement can be added later. What is most important is to increase the Salton Sea water level so that there is more surface area for evaporation.  

Task Four:

This one is a reach, and a bit more expensive. Hire The Boring Company to install a water tunnel drain in the Salton Sea; draining the water into Death Valley. This will be a good test project for The Boring Company on long distance tunnel making. The Salton Sea drain will allow flow-through of water, which will decrease the salinity of Salton Sea (and move the salt to Death Valley). It is expected that any water moved to Death Valley will quickly evaporate and help replenish the water cycle.

These tasks sound like lots of effort.

These tasks sound like lots of effort, but the effort is worth the cost. We humans need to be good stewards of our home planet and when we break something, we should repair it. The effort to conduct these tasks is much less than the effort which has been expended to remove water from the Colorado River. In comparison these are simple tasks.

[1] https://www.circleofblue.org/2019/world/u-s-irrigation-moves-east/?mc_cid=c41f6fa949&mc_eid=beb708555f

[2] https://www.watereducation.org/aquapedia/colorado-river-timeline

[3] https://www.usbr.gov/lc/region/g4000/hisdiv.html

[4] https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/the-colorado-river-runs-dry-61427169/

[5] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AmJOh34OWO0&t=125s

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Cahuilla

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