Emergency Measures Needed to Rescue Great Salt Lake from Ongoing Collapse
By R. Jeffrey Davis, P.E., CGWP, Principal
A group of more than 30 researchers and professionals—including R. Jeffrey Davis, principal in Integral’s water resource management practice—authored a report urging collective action to preserve the Great Salt Lake from catastrophic collapse.
The report details the dire state of the lake, warning that if water deficits continue at their current rate of 1 million acre-feet per year, the lake will be on track to disappear in 5 years.
The authors note that, based on current estimates, climate change is responsible for around 9 percent of the lake’s decline by decreasing runoff and increasing evaporation. The larger issue is unsustainable water consumption at a rate of 2.3 million acre-feet per year, almost three-quarters of which is used for agriculture. “We need to plan for a drier Utah,” the report cautions.
Consequences of losing the lake include the collapse of food webs that support migratory birds, the loss of billions of dollars of economic activity, the disappearance of some 6,600 jobs, and an increase in air pollution harmful to crops and snowpack.
As noted in the Washington Post, CNN, and other media outlets, the authors hope that the report can help the state legislature, organizations, and individuals to act by pointing to “new conservation tools and commitments,” and reminding readers that “history shows that our community is capable of just this kind of bold collective action.”
Echoing this sentiment, Mr. Davis writes “Some community members have the opinion that there is nothing we can do to save the Great Salt Lake. Others think that the situation will resolve itself. The only way that we are going to be able to save this valuable resource is if we all come to the table, if we all are involved in the discussions and decisions, and if we all work together.”