National Geographic : 2005 Feb
follow the water A victim of geography and hard ball water politics, the Salton Sea lies 227 feet below sea level with no outlet-and very thirsty neighbors. Booming Coachella Valley (above) has 124 golf courses, and counting. To the south, the Imperial Valley's half million acres of fruits, vegeta bles, and feedlots (right) soak up more water than Los Ange les and Las Vegas combined. Salty, fertilizer-laden runoff feeds the sea, along with water from Mexicali carried by the New River, at center. A deal that diverts water to Coachella Valley and San Diego over the next 15 years will sharply cut inflows. The sea, now a haven for migratory birds, may become too salty to support current wildlife populations.