The Shrinking Salton Sea and the Dust Storms Impacting the Imperial Valley

Just a hundred miles to the East of San Diego, lies one of the largest inland lakes in the West. Formed by an inflow of water from the Colorado River, the Salton Sea covers 318 square miles of the Imperial Valley. However, as a result of combined human activity and climate change, the lake is drying up.

The Salton Sea would have dried up in the early 20th century, had it not been for Imperial Valley farmers who used the Colorado River for irrigation and let the excess flow into the lake. By the 1950s and into the 1960s the Salton Sea would become a resort destination filled with vacation homes and resort hotels.

As we moved closer to the turn of the century, the lake began to shrink as farmers in the Imperial Valley began to use water more efficiently and the runoff that supplied the lake began to dwindle. The exposed lake bed is rapidly turning into a source of dust, worsening the frequent dust storms that impact the people who live in the surrounding areas.

Learn about the intersection of architecture and science in this stark but magnificent landscape in a conversation with Climate Scientist Amato Evan and Architect Gillian Shaffer Lutsko. Discover how collaborations with local activists, policy groups, scientists and indigenous communities inspired an architectural project that envisions how we can unite conversations around redevelopment, the climate crisis, public health and community-led design.

Watch Dust and the Salton Sea – Urban Design for the Climate Crisis.