The , a collaboration of nine leading foundations, has announced a five-year, $10 million commitment in support of the restoration and long-term management of California's Salton Sea.
Announced during the White House Lake Tahoe Summit earlier this week, the effort will address the threat posed by imminent water transfers from the Salton Sea that would accelerate the drawdown of the lake and expose 1.65 million residents of Southern California and Mexico to harmful toxins while adversely affecting agriculture, recreation, and other economic activities in the region. The disappearance of the Salton Sea also would undermine an interstate agreement to stabilize Lake Mead and the water resources for the four states dependent on the lower Colorado River and affect more than four hundred bird species that use the lake as a migration stopover. The Water Funder Initiative's Lower Colorado task force — which includes the , , , , , and foundations — has joined with government at the state and federal levels in supporting the implementation of a comprehensive plan to protect public health and the environment, enhance drought resilience, and promote the restoration of the lake.
The $10 million funding commitment could include loan guarantees, support for civil society, economic diversification programs, and other activities that benefit wildlife habitats and local communities. Before it commits the funds, however, the funder collaborative has called for the development of a restoration roadmap that spells out how public health and wildlife habitat will be protected; promotes environmental and social justice for disadvantaged communities; and lays out the steps needed to achieve the governor's Salton Sea taskforce recommendation to restore twenty-five thousand acres around the lake over ten years. The group also has called for parallel and coordinated efforts to develop the Imperial Valley's renewable energy resources and for significant funding commitments from the state and federal governments.
Complete restoration of the Salton Sea could cost between $1.5 billion and $2.5 billion, while the estimates that failure to restore the lake could cost between $29 billion and $70 billion over the next thirty years in healthcare costs due to issues caused by exposure to the seabed's dust and diminished revenues from recreational activities.
"This is the time to commit," representatives of the Water Funder Initiative said in a statement. "There is a great opportunity to finalize a framework this year that could guide efforts over the next decade to protect public health, strengthen the environment, put us on a path to a more sustainable water future, and develop vital renewable resources."