By the 1970s, the agricultural runoff had increased the salinity and toxicity of the water in the Salton Sea to the point where fish die-offs started occurring. This took the lake’s residents and visitors completely by surprise. Tourism started gradually receding due to these die-offs, being exacerbated by massive algal blooms and the stench the two components together created. To add to this, the sea regularly burst its banks through the 70s, leading to situations such as the one in Bombay Beach, where half of the city was diked off and left for the sea to reclaim. Residents in the tourist towns on the east and west banks held on until it was nearly unbearable to live there anymore, setting the stage for a mass exodus in the late 80s and early 90s. The lake, as far as humans were concerned, was already dead.
Header photo: Thousands of dead fish wash up on the shores of the Salton Sea, killed due to the high toxicity and salinity of the water, credit Jim Lo Scalzo
Inline photo: The remains of several structures at Bombay Beach, credit The American Southwest