Next They Will Be Campaigning to Save the Oil Residue on Alaskan Beaches

I thought this was really funny -- from an email I got today:

With water supplies drying up in the next 10 years, the Salton Sea poses an economic and ecological threat to the Coachella Valley and large portions of Riverside and Imperial counties. And while plans to restore the Salton Sea exist, government funding and determination to tackle this potential multi-billion disaster have not materialized.

Why is this funny?  Because the Salton Sea is the result of a man-made environmental disaster about a century ago.  The lake formed when floodwaters from the Colorado River roared down a man-made canal, breached a dike, and formed the lake.  Since then, this record "spill" which dwarfs the sum total volume of every oil spill of all time has been slowly drying up like a puddle on the garage floor.  I suppose I am OK retaining it if people have gotten used to it, but I find it funny that the natural reversal of a man-made ecological disaster is itself an ecological threat.

The following, by the way, has to be the dumbest idea of all time from an economic and energy balance perspective:

The Imperial County Board of Supervisors and Imperial Irrigation District have voted to explore the Sea to Sea Plan, which not only brings water to the sea, but generates hydroelectric energy that will be used for desalinization of water that can then be sold to water users throughout the Southwestern United States and Mexico. This new, reliable water supply will generate funds for further Salton Sea restoration.

So we pay money to pump water out of the Sea of Cortez, but then somehow have this generate electricity that pays for desalinization to then pump the water back out of the Salton Sea for irrigation.  Sorry folks, but I think the second law of thermodynamics says this won't work.

Update: OK, from here, one source says the water generates energy via hydroelectric plants, which seems odd (pumping water up and then harvesting the energy going down never balances, though this is used in certain California lakes as a method of energy storage) while one source says the power is geothermal.  Hmm, does "half-baked" come to mind reading this?

Update #2:  Shouldn't desalinization occur as close as possible to the source?  Otherwise you are paying to pump tons of salt you are going to eventually remove.


  1. Fred Z:

    You want math and logic from enviro-lefties? What the hell is the matter with you?

  2. redc1c4:

    i didn't go look for a web page with the plan, but if they bring water from the Colorado, it would be more or less down hill from there to the Salton Sea, and thence to the Sea of Cortez...

    not that that means the plan makes any more sense, but it would be better than pushing the water uphill all the way.

  3. Craig:

    I've heard of projects which try to play on the difference in electric rates between day and night by pumping water uphill at night (when it's cheap to do so) and running it down the hill during the day (when demand is higher).

  4. ArtD0dger:

    According to this, the Salton Sea is 228' below sea level, so there could be a net power production from filling it:

    I also doubt they count the power cost of any irrigation pumping against this. It could still net positive if most of the irrigation was also below sea level.

  5. Ian Random:

    They pump water when electricity is cheap and let it run through the generator when it is expensive. Sometimes, they do it with air. I heard of one that used an intermittent renewable like wind and underground caverns.

  6. stan:

    About ten years ago, the DOE facilities (Y-12, X-10) in Oak Ridge were ordered by the EPA to stop putting chlorine into the creeks on the grounds that it was harmful to the fish that lived in them. The creeks were formed by the water released from the cooling towers. Without the chlorinated water from the towers, the creeks would never have existed.

  7. Brad K.:

    Since the water in the ocean isn't pristine, isn't pure "salt", has stuff growing in it - and residues of runoff muck and locally generated living things detritus - won't the "leavings" of desalting ocean water, um, be an ecological problem? Especially after you accumulate more than a couple hundred pounds? Not to mention, the biological component would likely contribute stinks and methane to the air, neither of which will endear the effort to any neighbors.

    I gotta vote for sticking close to the source of the salt water, with a long pipe out past the shoreline for returning "unwanted" components to the source. Heck, the warmed water slurry, rich in minerals and biological components (fish poop and dead algae), might spark a local bloom of algae, crudding up propellers and tourist boat hulls, but taking down excess atmospheric greenhouse gases.

    It worked for Forrest Gump, in the books, anyway.

  8. steep:

    What's even funnier is that the Sea is drying up because the upstream farmers have become more efficient with their water use. The can sell the water they used to spill to the sea to LA and SD and still grow their crops.

  9. CRG:

    The reason that people say the sea's death would be a disaster is that the micro-fine silt at the bottom of the sea would become wind-blown dust (the area has frequent strong winds) that would cause some serious respiratory problems for any humans within a 50-mile radius.

    And as far as that sea-to-sea plan? It sounds utterly ridiculous. But I have to keep reminding myself that sometimes it's the utterly ridiculous idea that ends up being the only one that actually works. Most of the time, though, the utterly ridiculous idea is just, well, utterly ridiculous.