Although the Great Salt Lake watershed experiences droughts and wet cycles, overall precipitation and water flow from the mountains has shown no long-term trend for the past 160 years. Consumptive uses, however, have reduced Great Salt Lake’s level by 11 feet, decreased its volume by 48%, increased lake salinity, and exposed approximately 50% of the lake bed. This has increased wind-blown dust, impaired the use of marinas, and caused costly logistical constraints for the mineral extraction industry. The shallow Bear River Bay and Farmington Bay estuaries have been particularly impacted by desiccation, thus reducing wetland habitat and their use by waterfowl and shorebirds. Additional water development in the basin, exacerbated by long-term climate variability, may further reduce the lake’s level unless conservation efforts are increased for urban, industrial, and especially agricultural uses. Utah needs to be aware of how water developments in the past, and those proposed for the future, affect the lake and the important resources it provides, as well as human health and the economic stability.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/wayne_wurtsbaugh/353/