The water level of the Great Salt Lake has dropped to a historically low level. Utah Department of Natural Resources
Amid a mega-drought in the western United States, the Great Salt Lake in Utah has now reached record water levels, its second record in less than a year. The water level dropped to an average daily surface water elevation of 4,190.1 feet.
This is the lowest water level since records began in 1847, as explained in a press release from the Utah Department of Natural Resources. The previous October 2021 record low water level was 4190.3 feet.
But experts believe the worst is yet to come. With the persistent dry conditions, the lake’s water level is expected to drop further through the summer, and it won’t see any relief until early fall or even winter, when incoming water will equal or exceed the water lost through evaporation.
“That’s not the type of record we like to break,” said Joel Ferry, executive director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources. “Urgent action is needed to help protect and preserve this critical resource. It is clear that the lake is in trouble. We recognize that more action and resources are needed, and we are actively working with the many stakeholders who value the lake.
To make matters worse, with every foot drop in water level, 150 square miles of lake bed are exposed, as reported by ABC4. Natural toxins and man-made pollution are then exposed and deteriorate air quality.
In addition, the drop in water levels is dangerous for migrating birds and risk losses to the local economy, which depends on the lake for recreation as well as for mining and brine shrimp.
Falling water levels have led to overdue legislation, HB410 or the Great Salt Lake Watershed Enhancement, due to pass this year, which provides a $40 million grant to the Great Salt Lake Watershed Enhancement Program to protect and restore wetlands around the lake and improve flows of water.
The Great Salt Lake is not the only one to suffer unprecedented water losses. In California, Lake Shasta and Lake Oroville reached extremely low levels after the driest year in state history. Lake Mead, located in Arizona and Nevada, also made headlines this year after the shrinking lake revealed newly discovered human remains.
Experts believe similar finds of animal and human remains will be uncovered as worsening droughts continue to drop lake and reservoir levels to historic lows. Falling water levels are also exposing the air we breathe to toxins stored in lake beds, leading to new threats to public health.