Dear Everyone,

Summer is an especially challenging time of the year in Imperial Valley, California. The area near the Salton Sea, a landlocked lake in the middle of California’s Colorado Desert, can be especially hot and dry. It sits over 200 feet below sea level, almost as low as the Death Valley Basin. Increasing temperatures and more frequent droughts have led to increased evaporation of the Sea’s water, leaving behind a growing playa containing caustic chemicals and salts from agricultural runoff. I recently visited this area for my research.

 

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I study the impact of drought, climate change, and agricultural activity on children’s asthma, as they will be some of the residents at the greatest risk of the poor health effects of polluted air. Driving through some of the residential areas in Imperial Valley,

it is common to see runners wearing face masks along sidewalks that border freshly fertilized fields, and I realized about 20 minutes after arriving, I also found it difficult to breathe normally. Although I had previously read reports on the Salton Sea, I was still shocked to see first-hand the amount that the water level has decreased and the amount of pollution present in the runoff that may eventually find its way to the people in the area.

Aubrey Doede,

2018 ERI Graduate Fellow