Thirsty Great Salt Lake just got a little help from its friends

Oct 20, 2021, 7:01 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 Great Salt Lake is evaporating amid an exceptional drought, and as it loses water, the habitat for millions of migratory shorebirds evaporates as well. But the good news is a long-time environmental group and two Utah partners have joined forces to transfer water rights to a parched Farmington Bay on the lake’s eastern side.

On July 23, 2021, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) gauge at the Saltair boat harbor at the southern end of the lake recorded the average daily level at 4191.3 feet above sea level, the lowest mark since measurements began in 1875. The previous low was set in 1963, as reported and photographed by NASA.

More water on the way to the Great Salt Lake

Marcelle Shoop, the director of the Audubon Society’s Saline Lakes Program and long-time Utahn, joined KSL NewsRadio’s Jeff Caplan. 

The Great Salt Lake represents the largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere. 

Shoop said both Rio Tinto Kennecott and the Central Utah Water Conservancy District are donating water rights to about 21,000 acre-feet of water for the next 10 years. According to Shoop, the rescue efforts should help refill parts of the lake. The water will flow down the Jordan River and out into Farmington Bay to benefit wildlife, habitat and recreation.

Looking to the future of the lake

Schoop added the donations are much needed in drought, but there is more.

“This is not just about these water transactions themselves. It’s also setting a precedent for the ability to do future water-sharing arrangements like this for other important habitat areas in the lake,” she said.

“Over the course of 10 years, could this help refill [Farmington] Bay and raise the level of the Great Salt Lake?” Jeff asked.

“This will help provide more water for more habitat. It’s probably not enough water to fill the bay at the level it’s at now, but this combined with many other solutions and tools can help protect and preserve the Great Salt Lake,” Shoop said.


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Thirsty Great Salt Lake just got a little help from its friends