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Agriculture in California’s Desert: The Salton Sea and Imperial Valley

March 8th, 2009 Category: Lakes

Agriculture near USA-Mexico border - March 1st, 2009

Agriculture near USA-Mexico border - March 1st, 2009

The Salton Sea is an inland saline lake, occupying the lowest elevations of the Salton Sink, part of the larger Colorado Desert in Southern California, USA. To its south is the Imperial Valley, a region of southeastern California (USA).

Although this region is a desert, with high temperatures and low average rainfall of three inches (seventy-five mm) per year, the economy is heavily based on agriculture due to the availability of irrigation water, which is supplied wholly from the Colorado River via the All-American Canal.

A vast system of canals, check dams, and pipelines carry the water all over the valley, a system which forms the Imperial Irrigation District, or IID. The water distribution system includes over 1,400 miles (2,300 km) of canal and with 1,100 miles (1,800 km) of pipeline. The number of canal and pipeline branches number roughly over a hundred.

The agricultural lands, seen flourishing here, are served by a constructed agricultural drain system, which conveys surface runoff and subsurface drainage from fields to the Salton Sea, which is a designated repository for agricultural runoff.

The Salton Sea covers a surface area of approximately 376 square miles (974 km²), the largest in California. While it varies in dimensions and area due to changes in agricultural runoff and rain, it averages 15 by 35 miles (24 by 56 km), with a maximum depth of 51 feet (15.5 m), giving a total volume of about 7.5 million acre-feet (9.3 km³).

The sea is fed by the New, Whitewater, and Alamo rivers, as well as a number of minor agricultural drainage systems and creeks. Sea inflow averages 1.36 million acre-feet per year (53.2 m³/s).

It is actually located below sea level, with the current surface of the Salton Sea at about 220 ft (65 m) below sea level. The deepest area of the sea is only 5 feet (1.5m) higher than the lowest point of Death Valley.

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