Via The Los Angeles Times: Water officials hear predictions of looming crisis at Salton Sea. Excerpt:
To sell water to San Diego County, Imperial Valley farmers have had to fallow land – 50,000 acres last year. A reduction in water used for irrigation means less runoff water into the Salton Sea; runoff is a major source of replenishment for the sea.
The sea is shrinking, which exposes more ground to the air. As the sea recedes, dust storms swirl with a suddenly exposed sea bed laden with agricultural pesticides. The Imperial Valley and Coachella Valley areas have a high rate of asthma and other breathing problems.
Under the water deal approved in 2003, the irrigation district is required to put water directly into the sea, slowing but not halting its decline. But that requirement lapses in 2017, when the rate of shrinkage is expected to increase dramatically without the extra water.
Dr. Stephen Munday, Imperial County health officer, said that he has already seen the effect of unhealthy air on his patients. “I’m gravely concerned for their health in the future,” he said.
In 2012, westward winds brought a rotten-egg stench from the Salton Sea over much of Southern California. In 2014, the Pacific Institute, a Northern California environmental think-tank, predicted the stink storm was only a small taste of what will become commonplace if the Salton Sea continues to shrink.
At the Sacramento board meeting, several speakers made ominous comparisons to the dust storms at Owens Lake, which had considerable water until much of it was diverted for use in Los Angeles.
“The Salton Sea is three times larger than Owens Lake and the destruction caused by inaction will likely be three times worse,” said Imperial County Supervisor Ryan Kelley.
While there is nothing approaching an overall plan for the Salton Sea, there are several smaller projects, mostly to preserve the sea as a place for fish and migratory birds.
The story doesn't mention Valley fever, but it could be a possible hazard as well. Elsewhere in the Times today, California Governor Jerry Brown is asking for $1 billion in emergency drought relief.