A small fact that we might not have known about the Great Salt Lake in Utah is that it supports more than 10 million migrating birds. But, unfortunately these birds are in strict jeopardy of a massive die-off due to the drying of the lake. Brine shrimp and other wildlife that rely on the lake as a means of survival, are also becoming threatened. As of right now, conservation organizations are calling on the Utah government and state officials to implement greater prevention measures.
Back in the winter season of 2022, lawmakers took a helicopter ride over the lake to tour its health at an overview. What they saw was astonishing—exposed lakebeds, dried mud flats, and record-low water levels. That caused major action throughout the government to create conservation bills, water reforms, and money trusts to assist in keeping the lake stable. Even with the record-busting snowfall this year , conditions stay stagnant. Drying up day by day, blowing up toxic dust, the wildlife does not stand a chance.
So what has been causing this extreme loss in water? Well, since 2020, climate change and upstream water diversions have been the cause for the deficit of 1 million acre-feet of water from the lake. Upstream diversions are the use of lake water for crops, homes, and other industries greenlighted by the government. The government believes they are playing a major role in saving the lake, but are they really? Due to these diversions, and the effects of climate change, the lake has reached a point where experts say is below continued viability.
One initiative that has caused slight stability was the construction of a breach that splits the lake into two. The rock-filled breach allows water to flow into the saltier northern half, slowing down the salinity levels in the southern half. The southern half of the lake is home to the brine shrimp, brine flies, other microbes, and birds that have already seen a heavy die-off. As the lake remains divided, it has kept the southern half’s water levels higher than they would be if the breach did not exist—the southern levels would be 1.1 feet lower and the northern levels 1.8 feet higher to be exact. Usually, the lake loses between two to three feet annually from evaporation, but incorporated with the other factors, the lake will only be 1.5 feet higher than where it bottomed out last year.
As of September 6, the Sierra Club Utah and other local conservation coalitions are suing the state of Utah for failing to protect the Great Salt Lake. The governmental body has failed to acknowledge the significance of the upstream water diversions that have been causing the extreme dry out. The coalitions believe that the lake faces ecological collapse and that the government has not taken fast or strict enough action to counteract this threat.