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Salton Sea, California



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Environmental Studies


The Salton Sea, California's largest lake, is located in the southeastern desert region of California. It lies within a 7851 square mile endorheic hydrologic basin that includes the Coachella and Imperial Valleys of California, and the Mexicali Valley of Mexico, with a surface elevation of 227 feet below mean sea level (msl). The shallow nature of this hypersaline lake, with a surface area of 367 square miles (951 square kilometers) and a maximum depth of 51 feet (15.5 meters), renders it very sensitive to even slight changes of inflow volume. Over 85 percent of the water entering the Salton Sea results from agricultural run-off, 1.34 million acre feet (Maf), with less than three percent of annual inflow deriving from basin precipitation. The Salton Sea is situated in the Colorado Desert in one of the most arid regions of the United States. Annual precipitation is less than 3 in. (7.6 cm), and mean monthly temperatures in July are 92°F (33.3°C), with maximum temperatures exceeding 100°F (37.7°C) on more than 110 days per annum. Potential evaporation is estimated at 5.78 feet (1.76 meters) per year.

Document Type


Book Title

The Encyclopedia of Earth


Brian Black


National Council for Science and the Environment

Place of Publication

Washington, DC

Publication Date



Not available.


Salton Sea, California, environmental history, ecology, evolutionary biology, desert lake


Desert Ecology | Ecology and Evolutionary Biology | Environmental Sciences | Natural Resources Management and Policy | Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecology | Water Resource Management

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Salton Sea, California