Great Salt Lake drying up negatively impacts air and environment


Via Flickr

Grace Smith | June 17, 2022

Climate change and population growth are drying up the Great Salt Lake, located in Salt Lake City Utah, which is affecting the air and environment around the lake. Since 1980, the lake has shrunk two-thirds in size. In 2021, the lake reached a new record low in average daily water levels, decreasing one inch below the previous record low in 1963, according to U.S. Geological Survey data.

Animals are greatly affected by this alarming issue. Around 10 million migratory birds feed on flies and brine shrimp that live in the Great Salt Lake. As water levels drop, salt levels increase, becoming too salty for the lake’s algae, killing the shrimp and flies who feed on the algae. This then affects the numerous birds that eat the flies and shrimp. The drying up of the lake also affects the air and the citizens that breathe it. The bottom of the lake contains a mixture of arsenic and heavy metals, and as the water dries up, windstorms start to circulate these poisonous metals into the lungs of 1,260,730 people in the Salt Lake City metro area.

In addition, the Wasatch Front, an area home to 2.5 million people between Provo and Brigham City in Utah, utilizes the Jordan, Weber, and Bear rivers which feed on snowfall from nearby mountains, for water and agricultural purposes. Population growth has more citizens in these cities using the three rivers as their water sources at the same time as higher temperatures turn snowfall into water vapor instead of liquid. This creates a major problem for farmland that needs more water to combat high temperatures to feed the growing communities near the lake. 

Utah state lawmakers have made it mandatory to include the topic of water in their long-term planning, according to Euro News. In addition, Laura Briefer, director of Salt Lake City’s public utility department, said during a news conference that although the city, which is expected to increase in population by 50% by 2060, needs water, recycling wastewater and pulling from groundwater can increase the water supply for the fast-growing city without taking away water flow into the Great Salt Lake.

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