Nov 1-2 @ Imperial Valley College

The Salton Sea

Author: Isamay Sandoval, Outreach Specialist

Looking back on my youth, I remember encountering a vast body of water when I arrived in Palm Springs. I asked myself, “Why hasn’t my family brought me to this beach before?”

I had an outgoing and active family. So, I could not understand why we didn’t enjoy such an inviting place, the Salton Sea. I would soon discover the threat it posed to marine life in it, the wildlife and to everyday life all around it.

As a kid, I remember my baby brother struggling for a breath of air. It made me fear the chronic disease known as asthma. I was fortunate enough to not be considered an asthma statistic, though. The Imperial County is home to a population of 186,744 people. Statistics show that 12% of that population has asthma. I had no idea the role the Salton Sea could play in that.

I learned that due to engineering errors in 1905, a great flooding of the Colorado River overflowed into the area for 18 months, causing the creation of the Salton Sea.

The Salton Sea became home to beautiful migrating birds; it was the weekend getaway for the average family; a place of endless fun for everyone, including celebrities. The huge man made lake offered bird tours, beautiful hikes, yacht clubs, fishing, sightseeing and night sky gazing. Sadly, it is now considered an environmental catastrophe.

Over the years, agricultural water runoff containing pesticides and chemicals became some of the main sources that feed the Salton Sea, contributing to its poor water quality.

Another water source affecting the Salton Sea is the New River. This hazardous river originates in Mexico, creating an inflow 60 miles away to the Salton Sea. Its waters are polluted with trash, raw sewage, heavy metals and industrial chemicals.

For this reason, I’m proud of my work at Comite Civico del Valle in the “Salton Sea Community Outreach, Education, & Engagement program”. We provide education on the Salton Sea, giving updates to the community on project progress and related essential information. We inform parents about the school flag program, implemented throughout the county and how its exponentially growing with the help of different partners, as well as provide them with information on the IVAN air monitoring app to check air quality.

Since I started working with CCV, I’ve met many concerned residents who fear for the wellbeing of generations to come. They share and discuss their respiratory issues, asthma, and allergy encounters, as those continue to become severe. Their concerns seem to be growing.

We work to make sure that each community member feels empowered to become proactive in their everyday life, to speak up about the issues they feel affects them. It helps the community to participate in their civic duty and make their voices count. And this makes me feel that through my work I’m making a difference.