Owens Lake Dust Mitigation Program (Environmental)
When the City of Los Angeles drained Owens Lake by diverting the water feeding it, the people had no idea what they’d done. In the early 1920s, this apparently seemed like a viable source of drinking water and one that would have little effect on any other population. By the year 2000, the 108-square-mile lakebed had become the largest dust (PM10) polluter in North America, second in the world only to the Sahara Desert. The naturally occurring combination of saline soils covering the lakebed that are fine and clayey in nature created a dust problem that has affected people across hundreds of miles.
Since 2000, Barnard has constructed a series of eight projects aimed at reducing dust emissions without using excess precious water. The result: Owens Lake today is a much different place. Using innovative methods such as shallow-flooding, salt grass planting, moat and row construction, and rock armoring, the dust production from the lakebed has been reduced significantly. Systematically attacking the worst pollution source areas one at a time, the lakebed is now a haven for Snowy Plovers and other migrating birds.
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