SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be donating over 5,700 “water shares” to the state of Utah, equivalent to over 20,000 acre-feet, or around 6.5 billion gallons of water.

The water, which will come from the North Point Consolidated Irrigation Company, is “believed to be the largest ever permanent donation to benefit the Great Salt Lake,” a release states.

The amount of water is reportedly about the size of Little Dell Reservoir, and will be flowing at a rate of up to 50 cubic feet per second.

The release states that this water is normally used for agriculture, but that this donation will ensure that water continues to flow to the lake in perpetuity.

The Utah Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR), along with the Great Salt Lake Watershed Enhancement Trust, will be managing the donation, which is said to pave the way for future partnerships.

Additionally, the donation will reportedly include “new measurement infrastructure” to help track water deliveries to the lake.

Gov. Spencer Cox states, “This water donation will make a real difference to the lake and the future of our state. The Great Salt Lake is a critical asset environmentally, ecologically and economically, and we all need to work together to protect and preserve it.”

As the largest saline lake in the western hemisphere and the eighth largest in the world, the Great Salt Lake is a huge contributor to Utah’s economy in addition to being invaluable to animal habitats.

Here are some statistics about the Great Salt Lake, provided by the DNR:

  • Contributes $1.9 billion to Utah’s economy (adjusted for inflation)
  • Provides over 7,700 jobs
  • Supports 80% of Utah’s valuable wetlands
  • Provides irreplaceable breeding and stopover habitats for millions of birds to rest and refuel during migration each year
  • Lake effect snow also contributes 5-10% to Utah’s snowpack

The dept. warns that the consequences of the lake drying up could be dire, resulting in “increased dust, poor air quality, reduced snow, reduced lake access, habitat loss and negative economic consequences to the state.”

“The Great Salt Lake and the ecosystem that depends on it are so important. The Church wants to be part of the solution because we all have a responsibility to care for and be good stewards of the natural resources that God has given to us. We invite others to join with us to help,” said Bishop W. Christopher Waddell, First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric of the Church.

“This donation is invaluable because it’s a permanent, dedicated source of water that will benefit the lake year after year. I appreciate the collaborative effort among the Church, DNR and conservation groups,” said Joel Ferry, Executive Director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources. “We look forward to continuing to work together to safeguard the lake.”

Protecting the lake is vital to our environment, wildlife, economy, and future, DNR states.

The Utah Department of Natural Resources is one of the state’s largest agencies and helps ensure the quality of life of Utah residents by managing and protecting the state’s natural resources. The department includes eight divisions: State Parks; Outdoor Recreation; Oil, Gas and Mining; Forestry, Fire and State Lands; Water Resources; Water Rights; Wildlife Resources and the Utah Geological Survey.