Allowing the Great Salt Lake to dry up could not only suck billions of dollars out of Utah’s economy but actually reduce water supplies, according to a new report from the Great Salt Lake Advisory Council.
Costs include impacts to mineral, brine shrimp and recreation industries as well as health costs from increased dust.
Without the lake effect, Wasatch Mountain snowpack would be reduced by an estimated 5.1 to 8.5%. Environmental degradation would affect human quality of life, making Utah a less attractive place to relocate. The report notes that Great Salt Lake is part of the state’s identity so that losing the lake would involve cultural and spiritual losses as well.
Great Salt Lake water comes from the Jordan, Bear and Weber Rivers, as well as from precipitation and groundwater. The report says that human water use has already reduced the lake level by 11 feet, decreased its volume by 48%, increased lake salinity and exposed approximately 50% of the lakebed.
The good news is that conditions are not yet beyond repair. New policies are needed now to avoid environmental catastrophe and future costs of mitigation.
Assessment of Potential Costs of Declining Water Levels in Great Salt Lake: https://www.fogsl.org/images/Assessment_of_Potential_Costs_of_Declining_Water_Levels_in_Great_Salt_Lake.pdf
This is an excerpt from our December EnviroNews column. View the full article here.