Utah’s Great Salt Lake is shrinking, and fast. A lake that was once the size of Delaware is shrinking at an alarming rate and is in jeopardy of reaching its lowest water level ever recorded. The lake, which is approximately 35 feet deep, is being affected by a historic drought that is devastating much of the Western United States. Increasing temperatures and reduced rain failure have contributed to its elevation sitting at just above 4191.35ft, the previous low recorded in 1963. On a typical spring The Great Salt Lake receives 24 inches of runoff, this year it was just 6 inches.
The impacts of this have been and continue to be devastating. Sailboats are getting pulled out of the lake, Brine shrimp are suffering from increased salinity levels, Arsenic laced dust in the lake bed is being exposed, the list goes on and on.
In addition, the economy is getting hit hard by this historic event. An estimated 6500 jobs and $2 billion are in jeopardy of being lost. Also, the increased dust that is getting blown off the lake is collecting on surrounding snowpacks and causing the snow to become darker. This change in color is causing the snow to absorb more of the sun’s light and ultimately, melt faster. Not ideal for the state’s billion-dollar ski industry.
Despite mitigation efforts to divert less water for crops and households, it seems the most effective way to prevent this from continuing is to focus on humanity’s impact on the environment which is contributing to these drastic weather events.