Last year, Utah’s Great Salt Lake dropped to a record low.
The trend continues, with another historic low posted on July 3. The Utah Department of Natural Resources reports that the water level dropped to an average daily surface water elevation of 4,190.1 feet, down from the record low of October 2021 of 4190.3 feet.
Conditions this summer are not expected to improve, according to the Department’s press release.
Based on historic data, lake levels will likely continue to decrease until fall or early winter when the amount of incoming water to the lake equals or exceeds evaporative losses.
“This is not the type of record we like to break,” Utah Department of Natural Resources Executive Director Joel Ferry said. “Urgent action is needed to help protect and preserve this critical resource. It’s clear the lake is in trouble. We recognize more action and resources are needed, and we are actively working with the many stakeholders who value the lake.
Dubbed an “environmental nuclear bomb” because of arsenic and toxins released from dust blowing from the dry lakebed and other issues, last month the Utah legislature approved $40 million in funding for the Great Salt Lake Watershed Enhancement Program, initially overseen by the National Audubon Society and the Nature Conservancy. The low water levels threaten migratory birds. Conservation groups view the Great Salt Lake as one of Earth’s most vital bird habitats.
Desperate politicians are considering piping water from the Pacific Ocean to the lake, with one lawmaker saying that “desperate times call for desperate measures.” A more practical idea to help save the lake comes from Salt Lake City, which needs to build a new wastewater treatment plant because the current one is at the end of its lifespan. Fox 13 reports that when the $800 million project is completed, the City is considering donating millions of gallons of effluent from the new treatment plant to the Great Salt Lake instead of selling the wastewater for irrigation or other uses.
The Governor’s office has identified three programs to save the lake:
- Improving watershed management
- Enhancing water conservation
- Optimizing agricultural tools
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