April 19, 2023 — The Great Salt Lake in Utah, North America’s largest terminal lake, faced “unprecedented danger” due to climate change-fueled drought. However, a wet winter with heavy rain and snow has brought hope to those concerned about the lake. Thanks to the precipitation, Utah’s Fox 13 observed sail boats being launched at the Great Salt Lake Marina, which had dried up about a year ago.
Utah’s ABC 57 reports that the snowpack in the basin is currently more than double the average for this time of year, increasing the lake’s water level by three feet. Despite this, experts warn that one good winter is not enough to save the lake, as the precipitation only made up for the previous year’s losses.
The lake needs an additional 1 million acre-feet of water per year to reverse its decline. Bonnie Baxter, the director of the Great Salt Lake Institute, said the state would “need another five years like this in order to get the system healthy again.” Climate change has made it difficult for the lake to recover, with increased evaporation and depletion exceeding the water input.
The drying Great Salt Lake threatens endangered species’ critical habitats and Utah’s economy, contributing $1.3 billion annually. Drying lake beds also expose toxic dust, posing a threat to human health. Despite the anticipated snowmelt, experts say it won’t be enough to save the lake, emphasizing the need for water conservation efforts, including water rights and installing meters for farmers to monitor water usage.
With the climate crisis creating a hotter and drier future, action is needed to ensure the long-term survival of the Great Salt Lake.