The Salton Sea is currently, for want of a less flattering term, a cesspool. While it's very picturesque, once you get up close to it, it becomes evident. The water is a murky brown and the "sand" that comprises the "beaches" isn't even sand at all. It's finely ground up bones and shells.
That's too bad. Because the area does have the potential to become a really nice resort , residential, and recreation area. But this will most likely never happen. As always, it boils down to $$$.
The Salton Sea and vicinity are all below sea level and at one time were originally part of the Gulf Of California. But over the years, the Coloroado River built up a "dam" that eventually choked it off. Were that dam in Mexico not there, everything from the Gulf all the way through Mexicali, Imperial, Brawley, and Coachella would be underwater. Indio and Palm Desert would be ocean beach cities. A driv northbound on SR
86-S approaching Mecca and it is very clear even to the untrained eye on the hill sides to the west that there are waterlines there, that the whole area was once underwater.
Many proposals to "save" the Sea have been made over the years. These ideas include building desalination plants and cutting the sea in half. The only idea that I've heard that seems to make any sense would be to build a two way pipeline to/from the Gulf, which is about a hundred miles to the south. The northbound pipe would simply be a gravity drop that fresh(er) water could help reduce the salinity content and perhaps lower the concentrations of chemicals in the water. (The Sea is about 230 feet below sea level) The southbound pipe would have to be a pump line where high salinity water be pumped back to the Gulf. Unfortunately this would require a right of way through Mexico. And it wouldn't be all that cheap to build. Maybe we could get Mexico to agree to the line in exchange for their endless outflow of population into the US. Heck we could even hire immigrant labor to build it.
But I doubt it will ever happen. The Salton Sea will be the next Owens Lake. Only this time, not only will lakebed dust be a probblem, but add mercury, selenium, and arsenic and God-knows-what-else to the mix as well.
Here are a couple of pictures of the sea.
[Edited 2007-02-11 18:05:42]