SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — No new water appropriations will be allowed along the Great Salt Lake Basin as its water levels reach historic lows after Gov. Spencer Cox signed a proclamation this week.

The proclamation includes the Bear, Weber, and Jordan River basins and the body of the Great Salt Lake, said Cox.

“Extreme drought, climate change, and increased demand continue to threaten the Great Salt Lake,” said Cox. “We are united in our efforts to protect this critical resource and are taking action to ensure existing flows continue to benefit the lake. When conditions improve, the suspension can be lifted.”

The proclamation does not affect existing water rights or applications. The Great Salt Lake, which is the largest saline lake in the Western Hemisphere, has seen its water levels plummet, leading to alarm as the weather refuses to cooperate in helping replenish the lake with needed snow melts. A decline in water levels is leading to an increase in dust, worsening air quality, increased salinity in the lake, and ecological damage, among other things.

“Saving the Great Salt Lake and protecting our available water sources is no small task and will require significant efforts from all Utahns – government, organizations, businesses, and individuals,” Utah Speaker Brad Wilson said. “Today’s announcement by Gov. Cox is a move in the right direction. As state leaders, we are doing everything we can to ensure Utah has enough water to meet our current needs and continue to support a growing and thriving population.”

Cox’s administration said the proclamtion will give conservation measures passed by the Utah Legislature this year time to kick in. Senate President J. Stuart Adams said $40 million has been approved for the lake’s restoration this year, though more research is also needed.

“This was part of a historic investment that allocated nearly $500 million to water infrastructure, planning and management, effectively changing decades of major water policy in Utah,” said Adams. “We are committed to doing more to preserve and protect this critical resource.”

“By protecting the lake, we help our economy, environment, wildlife and future,” said Cox.