Great Salt Lake in Utah could effectively disappear beyond recovery in five years due to overallocation and overconsumption.
Great Salt Lake in Utah could disappear completely in five years if consumption patterns continue, according to a new report.
Utah’s Great Salt Lake is going the way of so many once bountiful water bodies. It is disappearing from overconsumption of its water as well as evaporation and lack of replenishment from the region’s long-running drought.
Current conservation measures will not restore the lake and it is currently sitting at just 37 percent of its former volume. It has lost 40 billion gallons of water each year since 2020. The state would need a flow of 2.5 million acre-feet of water from within the state and from nearby states for the next couple of years in order for the lake to recover.
As lake levels drop, the concentration of salt in the water builds up to a level higher than the aquatic creatures can withstand, harming the natural ecosystem. Brine shrimp and flies, which are a staple of the diet for the 10 million migrating birds that pass through the area every year, would perish in the precense of increased salinity.
Human uses are causing the problem – our old friend agriculture uses the bulk of the water at 70 percent, and the majority of that goes for growing hay and alfalfa for livestock. Alfalfa might be a good cash crops for farmers, similar to how profitable almonds are to farmers in California, but that profit comes at a very high cost to the environment.
Mining and mineral extraction uses another 9 percent and so do cities for power plant cooling and lawn irrigation. Reduced stream flows are exacerbated by increased local temperatures that have made droughts more intense and driven up evapotranspiration. While residential water users could do more (lawn water during a drought in the desert?), the majority of cuts will need to come from agriculture in order to save the lake.
Scientists give the lake give more years before the ecosystem collapses.