Great Salt Lake is sometimes called America’s Dead Sea due to its similarity to the smaller Middle Eastern counterpart. But scientists are concerned that this moniker could be changing.
The lake in Utah has been depleted by human water consumption and diversion for a long time. Its level today is inches away from a 58-year low, state officials say, and Western drought conditions fueled by the climate crisis have exacerbated conditions. According to state officials, the lake is only inches from its 58-year lowest point. The drought conditions in Western Utah, exacerbated by the climate crisis , have also contributed to the current situation.
The worst part? It’s only July, and the lake historically doesn’t reach its annual low until October.| The worst part?}
Andy Wallace said, “I have never seen it so bad — not in mine lifetime.” He was flying in a prop plane over the water, just as he has done for many years as a commercial pilot.
Simply put, the Western Hemisphere’s largest salt lake is shrinking fast. The lake’s area would cover 2,100 miles, more than twice the size of Houston if it were to exist alone. A study published last year revealed that the lake’s surface area had been reduced by 11 feet by water taken from the rivers that supply it.
“Twenty-years ago, this was below about 10 feet of water,” Kevin Perry, chair of the University of Utah’s department of atmospheric sciences, said as he rode a bicycle in July across the lake bed.
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Perry and other scientists fear they are watching a slow-motion disaster unfold. Ten million birds flock each year to the Great Salt Lake to enjoy its struggling sea life. Here, more pelicans breed than anywhere else in the country
The problem spreads up the food chain. The Utah Geological Survey expressed openly its concern Thursday about the shrinking lake levels threatening microbialites, underwater reef-like mounds that feed brine flies and brine shrimp, and thus the 338 species that visit Utah each year.
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Michael Vanden Berg (manager of the survey’s energy- and mineral program) said, “We see these structures as living rock.” “Great Salt Lake has one of the most significant concentrations of modern microbioites anywhere in the world.”
A news release stated that if the lake recedes to historical levels, an unrevealed amount of its microbialites will be exposed. It can take weeks for the “living stones” to be eroded by the microbial mat. Even if the lake level returns to normal, it could take many years to recover.