A January 2023 report from Brigham Young University revealed that Great Salt Lake in Utah faces “unprecedented danger.”
The research sounded the alarm that if appropriate measures aren’t taken, the lake could disappear entirely in just five years.
Now, environmental groups are taking the Utah state government to court to challenge its unsustainable practices.
What’s happening to Great Salt Lake?
According to Business Insider, the lawsuit suggests the Utah government has been allowing upstream water to flow away from the lake and toward farmland.
Such a practice has significantly reduced water levels at the lake, and when combined with the effects of a warming climate in terms of mountain streams drying up, it is leading to a potential catastrophe.
Why is the lake’s potential disappearance concerning?
The lake is a hugely important part of Utah’s ecosystem and economy. In addition to the water source it provides for business and residents, the lake is also vital to millions of migratory birds. It’s also an essential part of the state’s mineral industry and is a significant tourist attraction.
According to the BYU research, potential consequences of its demise include air and water pollution, increasing numbers of endangered species, and agricultural declines.
The reduced water is increasing salinity levels, which is “incompatible with the lake’s food webs.”
It is also leading to the exposure of toxic dust. A CNN report noted that low water levels in 2022 brought an increased risk that soil containing centuries of mercury, arsenic, and selenium could be turned to dust and be carried by the air, which could be damaging to the health of local residents.
What can be done to stop Great Salt Lake from drying up?
“We are trying to avert disaster,” Brian Moench of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment told Business Insider. “We are trying to force the hand of state government to take serious action.”
So the lawsuit might help to spur the state’s government into action to prevent the worst-case scenario occurring.
But responsible water use could be a way that local residents could lend a helping hand.
Friends of the Earth recommends turning off taps while brushing your teeth, which could save over a gallon and a half of water a minute. Meanwhile, every minute spent in the shower uses four and a half gallons of water, so cutting shower times will also be a huge help.
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