The Salton Sea was once California's biggest tourist attraction -- now, with some of the highest rates of unemployment in the country, it's the state's rustiest, dustiest failed region. With water usage in Southern California at a premium, the accidentally human-made sea is drying up, with its only significant inflow coming from nearby farm runoff. It's still vital wetlands for 400 species of migratory birds, but the sea is poised to evaporate into a 365-square-mile dust bowl right next to Palm Springs within just a few years. And while it may not be blowing airborne toxins all over southern California and Arizona just yet, it's already assaulting Los Angeles with its powerful poison "odor events," which scientists predict could only grow more intense. (You can read some background on the Salton Sea in my comic above, an excerpt from the [free!] December issue of Symbolia Magazine.)
Now for the first time in a while, politicians are actually sounding hopeful about mitigating the sea's degradation. (Sorry, disaster tourists.) “We have a united vision. For the first time, there’s a chance to make some progress,” says one local county supervisor. But they have very different ideas on how to do it.