Great Salt Lake maps updated to show decline

SALT LAKE CITY — Earlier this week, The Salt Lake Tribune and AccuWeather said they will be updating their state maps to reflect the Great Salt Lake’s decline.

The lake dropped to its lowest level on record in July. It currently sits around 4,190 feet above sea level, roughly ten feet below its normal level. It is now holding 7.7 million acre-feet of water, about half of the historic average.

“The need to redefine the boundaries of the Great Salt Lake is a striking reminder of the profound impact of record-low water levels to the delicate and complex ecology of the Great Salt Lake and its wide-ranging importance to the people and economy of Utah,” AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Jonathan Porter told The SLT. “AccuWeather is committed to accurately depicting the boundaries of lakes to highlight the impact of climate change on our changing world.”

The former map of the Great Salt Lake, from 1984. (Photo: Google)

Gov. Spencer Cox was vocal about the urgency of the situation during his monthly news conference last week.

”From a health perspective, from an economic perspective, from an environmental perspective, the Great Salt Lake is a national treasure and must remain so. It’s not just the Great Salt Lake. It’s the Colorado River Basin, it’s all our lakes and streams and [water] storage capacity in the state,” Cox said. “This is an all-hands-on-deck issue.”

Brian Maffly of The SLT reports that the exposed lakebed poses a threat to Utah’s air quality and could potentially put more dust in the snowpack of the Wasatch Mountains, making it melt sooner. About 5 to 7% of the Wasatch’s snow derives from the lake.

A 2019 report from the Great Salt Lake Advisory Council said there could be losses of $2 billion annually if the lake continues to decline. The Great Salt Lake contributes to thousands of jobs, spanning from mineral harvesting to tourism.

If upstream diversions were cut on the Weber, Provo, and Bear rivers, the lake would be 11 feet higher, according to a 2016 study.

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