Great Salt Lake water levels are dropping to historic lows

View of Great Salt Lake, Antelope Island
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A drought that is drying up the Western United States is drying up the Great Salt Lake of Utah.  The Great Salt Lake is the largest saltwater lake in the Western hemisphere, but it is shrinking due to drought, climate change, and water diversions.

The terminal lake is expected to reach its lowest levels in 170 years, affecting recreational boating and migrating birds like pelicans.  It’s also stirring up arsenic-laced dust.

The Associated Press (see video below) reports that boats are being pulled out of the lake because there is no water to sail. More than 750 square miles of lake bed have been exposed as water levels drop, and when the wind kicks up, it spreads the dust that has naturally-occurring arsenic into the air. Not only is this dust potentially dangerous to inhale, but it lands on the surrounding mountains, causing snow to melt faster, impacting the state’s lucrative ski industry.

Kevin Perry, an atmospheric scientist with the University of Utah, told the AP that the lake should have water rights, too. “If we don’t allow the lake to have its own water rights so that we can preserve the amount of water that’s flowing into the lake, the future of the lake is quite bleak,” he said.

Because water from tributaries feeding the lake is being diverted, the Great Salt Lake ecosystem and the life it sustains is imperiled, reports Utah’s KCPW radioOpens in a new tab..  Millions of migratory birds are threatened as the lake drops to record-breaking levels.

Image Source: Wikimedia Creative Commons. View of Great Salt Lake from Antelope Island, Utah, USAOpens in a new tab., Hermann Luyken (October 2, 2012).


Since 1995, Deborah has owned and operated LegalTech LLC with a focus on water rights. Before moving to Arizona in 1986, she worked as a quality control analyst for Honeywell and in commercial real estate, both in Texas. She learned about Arizona's water rights from the late and great attorney Michael Brophy of Ryley, Carlock & Applewhite. Her side interests are writing (and reading), Wordpress programming and much more.

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Justine Weber
Justine Weber
July 24, 2021 2:48 pm
This is mind blowing! Something must be done asap!

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