SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – The Great Salt Lake is shrinking and the effects from it could damage Utahn’s air quality and ultimately residents’ health.

Utah has been facing a massive drought recently. Many cities are implementing water conservation policies to ensure there’s enough water to last the entire season. Much of this water, though, is needed to fill up the Great Salt Lake or the exposed sediments could potentially be harmful.

One organization aims to raise public awareness of these risks — FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake. The organization was founded in 1994 and works with all types of researchers and academic scholars to help maintain the future of Salt Lake and its resources.

Katie Newburn, the Education and Outreach Director of the program spoke with ABC4 about the Great Salt Lake.

“Water is such a high-demand resource, we have to make sure we’re using all of our conservation efforts to preserve it,” said Newburn. “Salt Lake is already at half its full volume which means half of its lakebed is exposed.”

With every decrease of one foot in the level of the Great Salt Lake, 150 square miles of lakebed is exposed.

The Great Salt Lake has naturally occurring toxins, as well as man-made toxins caused by pollution. When the lakebed is exposed, contaminants can cause poor air quality due to toxic chemicals being openly exposed.

Every two years, FRIENDS hosts the Great Salt Lake Issues Forum to discuss plans for research, management and planning for the lake. The forum is taking place on May 18-20.

“The most effective way we could preserve Salt Lake would be to allocate water from other sources,” said Newburn. “This would be a big project since we had below-average snowpack, there’s not much water to spare.”

One proposal Utah lawmakers are considering is building a pipeline from the Pacific Ocean to the Great Salt Lake in order to bring water in. The Great Salt Lake pipeline could cost millions and is still just an idea.

If nothing is done though, the cost of a dried-up lake could be detrimental for generations to come.

Courtesy of FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake