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Utah's Great Salt Lake nears record low water level

Amid the drought, the Great Salt Lake nears record low levels. (Mark Wetzel, KSL TV)



SALT LAKE CITY — For a brief time Wednesday, the water at the Great Salt Lake dipped below a record low. It was not an official reading because of how the measurements are made, but managers said the official record low is inevitable.

There are many things to see when visitors come to Great Salt Lake State Park. However, the main attraction is the lake itself with all that water stretching to the horizon. Only, lately, there's less of it to see.

"We are expecting to hit its lowest level in the coming days," said Candice Hasenyager.

She is Utah's deputy director of water resources. She's worried about the Great Salt Lake because the historic low elevation is expected to happen soon.

"We are concerned about the dropping lake elevations and the impacts it is going to have on the economy, wildlife, industry, tourism with the ski industry," she said.

There's also a concern with air quality.

"As the Great Salt Lake shrinks, the airborne dust from the lakebed comes up into our air column and we breathe it into our lungs," said Zachary Frankel. "That hurts the health of every man, woman, and child on the Wasatch Front."

Frankel is the executive director of the Utah Rivers Council.

The advocacy group has spent years asking state leaders to do everything they can to keep the Great Salt Lake from getting this low.

"And state policy leaders have ignored the concerns of health experts and conservation-minded people for decades," said Frankel.

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However, Hasenyager said there is work being done on the legislative level to address lake levels. It just takes collaboration among all those who use the water that flows into the Great Salt Lake.

The Great Salt Lake Advisory Council said, in a statement, "Ensuring a healthy Great Salt Lake will require collaboration, innovation, and changes in technology and policy. The Council is committed to working with the Governor's Office, the Department of Natural Resources, State Legislature, and Great Salt Lake watershed water users to maintain a healthy lake system. When we take care of the lake, we help our economy, our environment, our wildlife, and our future."

Part of the challenge is more people are moving to the Wasatch Front using that water.

"I think it's important to note we set our low in 1963 previously and then 20 years later, we hit our record high," said Hasenyager. "So, we recognize that the Great Salt Lake varies in elevation over the years, but the decline is definitely a concern to us."

In a statement, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said the Great Salt Lake's water levels are a reminder of the extreme drought.

Cox wrote, "As the fastest-growing state in the nation, there is a growing demand for water. Striking a balance between providing that water and protecting natural resources like the Great Salt Lake is important. The Great Salt Lake contributes $1.3 billion annually to Utah's economy. It's also a critical stop for 10 million migrating birds that rest and refuel here. As a state and as policy leaders, it's necessary to continue our work together to find solutions that balance Utah's growth and water needs with the importance of maintaining a healthy and sustainable Great Salt Lake."

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Alex Cabrero

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