Utah’s Great Salt Lake is on pace to disappear in just five years, warns an alarming report from Brigham Young University researchers. Presented Thursday to state lawmakers, the report advises the Great Salt Lake needs a “dramatic” influx of water to avoid “unprecedented” danger to the state’s public health, environment, and economy. The megadrought across the West, made worse by climate change, has already desiccated the lake to record-low levels of just 37% of its former volume and has exposed 60% of the lakebed, which is now a source of toxic dust pollution.
The report calls for an “all-hands-on-deck” water conservation effort — agriculture, especially hay and alfalfa cultivation to feed livestock, is responsible for 70% of Utah’s water use — as well as legal recognition of the lake’s right to exist. “This respectful approach to God’s creation,” the report says, “is in line with the religious and cultural teachings of the Indigenous and immigrant peoples of Utah.” (Salt Lake Tribune, Washington Post $, Deseret News, High Country News, E&E $, USA Today, CNN, USA Today, HuffPost, Weather Channel)