Martian Terraform – Santee Lakes Recreational Campground

It’s a far cry, as my mother and her mother before her would say, from a campsite in a forest on the northwestern edge of the new world to an overlook at the edge of the upper lake behind Padre Dam, an oasis in an otherwise arid locale known as Santee, the result of the refusal by citizens of the county of San Diego to drink the processed product of their liquid waste. With prideful words, if not heart, Mr. Skinner, the current director of Santee Lakes Recreational Campground, a private enterprise owned by the Padre Dam Municipal Wastewater Treatment facility, waxes eloquent about the potential clarity of water in the five manmade lakes, were it not, he tells me, for the presence of a lot of algae, a result of not quite sufficient aeration and the accumulation of chemicals that are not required to be removed in the treatment process for non-potable water.

Were it not for the presence of a thin belt of stucco, ranch style homes that the developers of the sewage treatment company were permitted to build on the periphery around the five small lakes, if you ignore the source of the water and the unnatural rectangular shape of the lakes, the panorama of brown hills, studded with scrub oak, habitat for snakes and rodents, substantial numbers of noisy coyotes, occasionally visible mountain lions, hawks and ravens, will fool you into thinking you are somewhere far distant from the thronging multitudes and traffic of the San Diego/Tijuana megalopolis. Were it not for cries of egrets and blue heron, you might think you’re in a terraformed habitat on Mars or Phoenix, Arizona.

Prototypical Martian Terraform

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