SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4) — All the moisture this water year is really paying off for the Great Salt Lake. Recent measurements have the lake at the same levels as this time last year, near 4,191 feet. This is up 2 feet from the all-time record low in the fall.
However, recent modifications to the cause last month are impacting the water level readings. The completion of the Causeway Breach Modification in February has, at least for right now, created two separate lakes.
Laura Vernon, the Great Salt Lake Basin Planner with the Division of Water Resources says, “We have stopped the flows from the south arm to the north arm and that’s allowed that lake level to rise more rapidly, perhaps more rapidly, in the south arm than it would have if it also had to dissipate into the north arm.”
The executive order signed by the governor raises the causeway 4 feet. And while it cut off the north arm, it’s helped save the Great Salt Lake ecosystem. “When we have salinity percentages that are too high then the brine flies and brine shrimp aren’t able to reproduce and won’t be able to thrive and provide the food source for the birds,” said Vernon.
The salinity levels have dropped to 158 grams per liter versus 185 grams per liter in the fall. But even with the recent rise in the lake levels, professors at Utah State University say that more can be done to ensure water reaches the Great Salt Lake through water shepherding.
Sarah Null, an Associate Professor of Watershed Sciences at Utah State University says, “It’s making sure that water moves through the distribution system where it’s supposed to be. And so, with the Great Salt Lake it means that as people make or have change applications to deliver water to the Great Salt Lake, it’s making sure that the water goes through the distribution system and makes it to the Great Salt Lake.”
They say water shepherding could be improved by adding more gauges in different watersheds to the distribution system. “More measurements, particularly in places we have gaps right now,” said Null. Filling in the gaps could ensure that conserved water meant for the Great Salt Lake doesn’t end up being absorbed by other downstream users.
“Now if you’re high up in the Bear River and someone says, I want to deliver one acre-foot of water to the Great Salt Lake, that would be really hard because we just can’t make those small volumes of water very easily, and so that where more measurement would really help,” said Null.