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Lake Profile

Salton Sea

General Information

Description The Salton Sea is the largest lake in California, and lies in the southeastern portion of the state, near the Mexican border. Sadly, the lake is the scene of increasingly frequent and massive fish and bird dieoffs due to pollution from salt- and nutrient-rich wastewater.

The Salton Sea began formimg in 1905, when a dike broke during efforts to build an irrigation system. Water from the Colorado River flowed into an ancient lake bed and over time formed the Salton Sea.

Country United States of America
Latitude 33° 15' 0" (33.2500)
Longitude -115° 45' 0" (-115.7500)
State California
River Basin Colorado

Physical Characteristics

Description The Salton Sea has no outlet and relies on agricultural runoff for 90% of its inflow.
Volume 6.80 km3
Surface Area 800.00 km2
Depth Mean depth: 8.0 m
Maximum depth: 15.0 m
Age 0 - 10,000 years before present
Origin Human Made
Type Saline


Economic Value The Salton Sea has been used for years as a depository for agricultural drainage. The Sea also supports a highly productive fishery where sport fishing is one of several popular recreational activities.
Major Cities

Watershed Management

Other Issues Irrigation
Nutrient pollution
Polluted runoff
Monitoring Programs In-Lake
Water Quality

Biodiversity Conservation

Species of Concern Desert pupfish is endangered and found in the freshwater inlets to the Salton Sea.


Salton Sea Authority



Crop Explorer - Global Reservoir and Lake Elevation Monitoring
Crop Explorer - Lake Level Variations from TOPEX/POSEIDON and Jason-1 Altimetry for Salton Sea
Environmental Issues Around the Sea
ILEC Database
Request for Proposals: Developing a Preferred Salton Sea Restoration Project (Feb. 03)
Salton Sea Advisory Number 43
The Salton Sea: where big issues collide and the politically correct hide


1/15/2011 - Dying lake strains landmark Colorado River pact
9/15/2003 - California looks to save the Salton Sea
1/1/2003 - California lawmakers blame Bush administration for failure of water pact
12/9/2002 - The Proposed Imperial Valley-San Diego Water Transfer

Additional Data Sources

Birkett, C., and I. Mason. 1995. A new global lakes database for remote sensing programme studying climatically sensitive large lakes. Journal of Great Lakes Research, 21 (3) 307-318.
International Lake Environment Committee, the United Nations Environment Program and Environment Agency, Government of Japan. 1997. World Lakes Database.
US EPA (2004) National Listing of Fish Advisories Database

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