Why is Utah Lake so gross? UVU receives grant to research ways to rejuvenate lake

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Courtesy: Utah County Sheriff’s Office

UTAH COUNTY, Utah (ABC4 News) – It is no secret that Utah Lake has always been less than desirable. The murky, shallow, and dirty water hasn’t been the most friendly to anglers, swimmers, and boaters in recent years.

A team of Utah Valley University faculty members, led by Dr. Eddy Cadet, associate professor of environmental science, has received a $350,000 National Science Foundation grant to study and recommend ways to rejuvenate Utah Lake.

“There is such a negative stigma surrounding Utah Lake,” says Hilary Hungerford, one of the UVU professors involved in the project. “The lake has gone through a number of phases that (have deteriorated it). It takes a hit, and then takes another hit.”

The Undergraduate Preparation through Multidisciplinary Service Learning at Utah Lake’ grant will allow faculty and students to investigate the ecological, environmental, economic, and social impact of the lake. In turn, those involved will inform local policymakers of their findings so the lake can be brought back to a more pristine condition. Hungerford says that there are multiple factors that have contributed to the deterioration of Utah Lake over the years.

“Utah Lake was this bountiful resource that a lot of indigenous groups would gather at…it was a huge source of life provision. That really changed over time as different groups began to use the lake and not really understand the resources around it,” says Hungerford. “So there was a lot of overfishing that happened–to help people survive–but it had its consequences of decimating local fish populations and then the invasive species, the carp, began to take hold and that outcompetes anything now. There are so much of them in the lake. Geneva Steel was right on the edge of the lake and that caused a lot of heavy metal contamination in parts of the lake and then early on, our cities used to put raw sewage into the lake. Of course, we know that doesn’t happen now.”

Undergraduate students will work together in teams and will work side-by-side with various faculty members. Starting next summer, and into the next three years, faculty and students will look at not only how to revive the lake itself, but also how the surrounding communities can better their relationship with the lake such as by adding a bike path.

“What do Utah County citizens want? What do people from Orem envision when using the lake? What are businesses surrounding the lake already dealing with and how can we try to help them or connect them to resources to make it better?” says Hungerford when discussing of what she hopes this project accomplishes.

The UVU team working on this research project is partnering with the UVU Center for Social Impact and Social Impact Metrics Lab, Utah Lake Commission, Utah Department of Environment Equality–Division of Water Quality, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, USDA–Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Utah County Health Department.

UVU is working with these various groups to best help the lake and surrounding communities promote Utah Lake as a place where residents want to go and recreate.

“We want to raise awareness and kind of break some of the stigma the lake has but also raise awareness what factors contribute to lake pollution,” says Hungerford. “So, thinking about things such as run-off and drainage and how we can maybe have practices in our everyday residential space to hopefully lead to less pollution in the lake.”

But, what are some things that people can start doing to try to appreciate Utah Lake more? Hungerford says to simply go and check it out for yourself.

“Keep an open mind, visit the lake, check it out! Maybe that will kind of break the stigma in your mind. Go there for a picnic on a Sunday afternoon and enjoy it, it is such an asset, it is such a resource.”

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