UTAH DROUGHT

Great Salt Lake inches away from a record low

Jul 1, 2021, 4:04 PM | Updated: Jul 6, 2021, 1:43 pm
Great Salt Lake low water...
The Great Salt Lake near the Saltair Marina (Photo: Utah Department of Natural Resources)
(Photo: Utah Department of Natural Resources)

SALT LAKE CITY — The level of the Great Salt Lake has been measured regularly since the Pioneers arrived in Utah in 1847. The record low level for the Great Salt Lake was 4,191.35 feet, set in 1963. 

On Thursday, the lake level was measured at 4,191.6 feet, just a few inches away from the record low. For a short time, earlier this week, the level actually dropped below the record because of a south wind blowing past the gauge at Saltair.

Ryan Rowland, data chief for the U.S. Geological Survey Water Science Center, says the official level requires a series of measurements.

“The best thing to do is to look at the average daily value and look at the trend of those values for the last several days,” Rowland told KSL NewsRadio.

The lake level data is available to the public on USGS’s website.

The lake’s highest historic level occurred in 1986 when it reached 4,212 feet — more than 20 feet higher than Thursday’s measurement.

Brian Steed, Executive Director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources, urged caution in evaluating the changing lake level.

“Conditions like wind, inflow and evaporation can cause the lake’s elevation to fluctuate. Sometimes those swings are extreme,” he said. “To account for this, the division evaluates daily averages rather than the instantaneous readings recorded every 15-minutes. Taking this approach provides us with a more accurate reading rather than a single snapshot in time.”

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox issued a statement on the near-record drop of the lake.

“It’s a sobering reminder of the heavy impact this extreme drought is having on Utah,” said the governor. 

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Great Salt Lake inches away from a record low