New USU study indicates Great Salt Lake is in decline

The shoreline of the Great Salt Lake is seen in this March 2022 photo. (Photo Credit: USU/Taylor Emerson)

LOGAN – The Great Salt Lake is managed as a public trust resource for the people of Utah.

Images courtesy of NASA.

A new report from Patrick Belmont and Janice Brahney of USU’s Department of Watershed Sciences, indicates the lake is in decline, reaching record low levels the last two years.

The report explains that without major intervention, the Great Salt Lake could disappear within five years. Dr. Belmont said an immediate need is to get a million acre feet of water to the lake.

“We’re trying to shift the culture to kind of a lake-first mentality,” Belmont said, “where people are thinking that this is a major problem — a potentially catastrophic problem  for northern Utah. And we’ve got to make sure we turn it around.”

He said the state has known about this for almost a decade and the legislature did start the process to recovery in last year’s session.

“If we’re successful in getting an additional million acre feet to the lake every year, we’re still looking at 15 to 20 years to refill the lake to a healthy level,” Belmont added. “There are some people who are looking at actions that are basically going to sustain it at its really low level now.

“But we’re experiencing a lot of problems even at the level it is right now. A lot of toxic dust, a lot of really stressed eco systems, 9,000 jobs are on the line.”

Belmont is optimistic, with the Governor and other state leaders talking about it every day. But he said there is no time to lose.

I believe we’ll get it done. This is Utah, we’ve got a lot of good people with their eyes on this, we know how important it is. But it’s going to take a lot of different people, providing perspectives, writing data, and moving things in the right direction.”

The report’s authors call on the governor’s office to declare a state of emergency, or at least implement emergency water conservation measures.

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