UTAH (ABC4) – Sometimes breaking a record can be a bad thing.
As the state battles a seemingly never-ending drought, the Great Salt Lake has reached its lowest water levels on record.
The Utah Department of Natural Resources says the lake has dropped to 4190.1 feet, breaking the previous record low of 4190.3 feet in October 2021.
To make matters even worse, experts say that based on historic data, these levels are likely to fall even further until fall or early winter when more moisture arrives.
And with 83% of the Beehive State under extreme drought, these same experts are calling for a response.
“This is not the type of record we like to break,” Utah Department of Natural Resources Executive Director Joel Ferry said. “Urgent action is needed to help protect and preserve this critical resource. It’s clear the lake is in trouble. We recognize more action and resources are needed, and we are actively working with the many stakeholders who value the lake.”
So why does this matter to Utahns? This is more than just about the lake losing water.
With every decrease of one foot in the level of the Great Salt Lake, 150 square miles of lake bed 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.
In June, the New York Times warned of an “environmental nuclear bomb” in a piece about the shrinking Great Salt Lake.
Back in May, local lawmakers took a helicopter ride which put the lake’s dropping water levels into perspective.
This prompted legislation, HB410, Great Salt Lake Watershed Enhancement, to take effect.
The bill provides $40 million to create the Watershed Enhancement Program run by local nonprofits. Some local advocates are happy with the step, but say it’s long overdue.