A Measure of Salt: Contemporary Artists Engaging Great Salt Lake is a group exhibition of twenty artists from Salt Lake City, New York City, and Los Angeles, each of who finds artistic inspiration in the salt of Utah’s inland sea.

The lake, no matter where one lives in the state of Utah, is a defining geographical feature, born of the much larger ancient Lake Bonneville. Since the mid-nineteenth century, the state’s history, industries, then in the course of time - art – have found commonality in this mineral.

The exhibit opens Febuary 13th and runs through May 23rd at the Granary Art Center.


Click here for complete details on this great event!

Using lake water for mineral extraction is just one of the threats Great Salt Lake faces year after year.


This report by Dr. Johnnie Moore details impacts from mineral extraction water withdrawals on the Lake when elevations are low.


To read the full report, Preliminary Assessment of the Effects of Withdrawing Water for Mineral Extraction on the Levels of Great Salt Lake at Historic Low Levels, download the PDF attachement below.

Thanks to our FRIENDS for helping preserve and protect Great Salt Lake


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Donations in Memory of Don R. Mabey
March 29, 1927- October 10, 2015
Served on FRIENDS' Board of Directors 1998-2000
Genevieve Atwood
Jim Gremillion
Pam Gremillion
Mike Wilson
Snow, Christensen and Martineau Lawyers
Clark P. Giles
Pam and Willy Littig
The Ronald Willden Living Trust
Ann Floor
Julia Reid and Jim Lunbeck
Paul Jewell
Chris and Sydney Fonnesbeck
Alisa and Ian Schofield
J. Emerson Mabey Family
Michael and Galen Weiser


On January 7, 2015, DWQ received the antidegradation (ADR) and a revised Comprehensive Mitigation and Monitoring Plan (CMMP) from UPRR. 

DWQ intends to request public comments through the Public Notice process from January 21, 2015, through February 20, 2015, on the Cert.  DWQ may alter the Cert decision-to-issue or conditions within based on information received during the public comment period. 

In order to ensure the completion of the bridge structure in 2015 construction season, UPRR has requested the Cert by March 2, 2015.

For a complete update and to view documents under review, including the ADR and CMMP, please see the DEQ website here.

Lake elevation on 11/12/2014 – 4,193.3’ asl

“We need holistic, collaborative and comprehensive water policy to protect our valued resources while facilitating smart growth.”

-Joe Havasi, Director, Natural Resources Compass Minerals

On October 23rd, FRIENDS celebrated 20 years of our collective work to preserve and protect the Great Salt Lake Ecosystem and its future. It was also an opportunity for all of us to renew our commitment as a community to continue this work in honor of an ecosystem that not only encompasses a significant and unique hemispheric value for millions of migratory birds, but is also generous through its extraordinary economic attributes to the people of Utah as a Public Trust.

We live along the shores of something GREAT – Great Salt Lake.

And whether we perceive it or not

During its relatively short life as a remnant of ancient Lake Bonneville

It has affected all of us.

From the ancients who lived in the Great Salt Lake wetlands

To the growing populations of today and tomorrow

The Lake affect continues to modify, influence and impress our lives

And the lives of millions of migratory birds and critters that rely on it.

From our “Call to Binoculars” in 1994, to our “Call for a Conservation Pool for the Lake” in 2010, we’ve definitely made a difference.  We’ve made tremendous strides forward in building awareness and appreciation of the Lake. We’ve created valuable tools and shaped important policies to address water quality protection. And we’re even getting a better handle on the “balancing act” of resource development while maintaining the ecological integrity of the system.

But we have to do more.

As a terminal lake that lies at the bottom of a 35,000 square mile drainage basin that has a growing population upstream in its watershed, the Lake is a mirror of who we are and how we behave. It’s a system that is heavily dependent upon inflows from snowpack, rivers and streams that will either “live or die” unless we make sure that it has enough water to perpetuate its impressive array of ecosystem services.

That’s why we focused our 2010 Great Salt Lake Issues Forum on the topic of establishing a conservation pool for the Lake. Knowing what we know about projected population growth, increased water diversions, water quality, predicted trends in climate change, increased industrialization on the Lake, and the sad fate of many other sister saline systems around the planet, these factors confirm that there is no time to waste. It’s a frightening prospect for water buffalos, upstream water rights holders, and even industry to agree that we should accommodate a fixed water elevation for the Lake. An elevation that not only raises all boats but keeps the ecological engine humming. But it’s the right thing to do.

To wit –the lowest recorded level on Great Salt Lake since 1850 was 4,191’ in 1963.  Currently, the Lake level is 4193.3’ - a mere 2.3’ above the record low. As a consequence, 70% of all boats in the Great Salt Lake Marina at the south shore are landlocked. Gunnison Island, which is a protected island and rookery for the 3rd largest breeding population of American White Pelicans in North America is no longer an island. It has a land bridge for easy predator access to this usually remote location. And Morton Salt has recently filed a request with the Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands- that oversees jurisdictional management for all sovereign lands including Great Salt Lake- to extend its existing intake canal by 6,800’ into the open water of Gilbert Bay, and deepen it by 10’. The Lake level is too low to maintain production of its signature salt and it wants to keep its 150 employees working. The trajectory of this canal would go right through a productive biostrome field which is an integral part of the food web for migratory birds. The list of impacts goes on while more straws are queuing up to make the same request.

How and when will we recognize our reality with Lake level?

A recent study by the US Geological Survey indicated that Utah’s average water use is the highest in the nation. For many years, Utah was second to Nevada but between 2005 – 2010, Nevada decreased its water use and Utah has become number one with a consumption level of 250 gallons of water use/person/day. (Lots of work to do here.) This recognition coupled with the Division of Water Resources’ perceived water needs by 2060 to serve a doubling population is driving the legislature, water conservancy districts, and land interests to justify sinking billions of taxpayer dollars into water development projects around the state. One of these projects includes developing the Bear River. When the Division and its consultants presented their vision to the Great Salt Lake Advisory Council at its October 29th meeting, they were somewhat boastful that less than a foot of water that would normally flow into the Lake would be lost. Clearly their sensitivity about the importance of Lake level was lacking.

Although we can and most certainly should debate the need, the impacts, and the cost of the proposed Bear River Water Development Project, there is no debate about the irreparable harm this project will have on the Great Salt Lake Ecosystem.

As you know, the regional economic significance of the Lake to the State of Utah is - $1.3B annually. As a sovereign land and a public trust resource – by law- Great Salt Lake must be managed in perpetuity by the Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands for the people of Utah. Adding to the many challenges the Division has in managing this complex system is the fluctuation in Lake level and how that affects its ecological character and endowment of ecosystem services.

Since the Bear River provides the lion’s share (60%) of inflows to the Lake, there is no question that this proposed upstream diversion of 220,000 acre feet of water will directly impact Lake levels.

One of the potential reservoir sites is Willard Bay. If this location is selected, it will not only impact the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge – a national wildlife refuge that was established in 1928 – but will also guarantee a direct loss of unique and valuable habitat of the Willard Spur, that in 2010 the Utah Water Quality Board authorized $1.2M to fund a 3- year scientific investigation to ensure the long term protection of the Spur’s aquatic life uses.

Are we willing to turn Great Salt Lake into an Owens Lake, the Aral Sea or Lake Urmia?

The fate of Great Salt Lake will be decided by our generation. That’s why we’re putting out another “Call.” This “Call” is for a comprehensive watershed based restoration and protection program for the Lake.  We propose that we – collectively - make a commitment – here and now - to focus our attention on the future of Great Salt Lake and how water fits into that picture. It’s time to unite our collective wisdom, our professional expertise and our will to achieve this necessary and timely undertaking for the Lake. We’ve got the numbers. We’ve got the know-how. We just have to do it.

In the words of Terry Tempest Williams “ The eyes of the future are looking back at us and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time.”

Great Salt Lake is our gift to the future. Let’s do everything possible to perpetuate its contribution to our culture, our consciousness, and our community.

In saline,


What you can do:

Stay informed about this issue on our website: www.fogsl.org

And thanks for being there for the Lake.

“I want to learn more about it and share what is there with my children and grandchildren that I’m sure don’t know. And probably write down some of the stories of [my husband’s] family that have lived out there.”

-Focus group participant in Carla Koons Trentleman’s Ph.D dissertation Place Attachment

Among Neighbors of Great Salt Lake and Its Environs, May, 2009

One gratifying outcome of the 2014 General Session of the Utah Legislature is H.J.R. 20:

Joint Resolution Recognizing the Significance of The Great Salt Lake. It was shepherded through the legislative gauntlet by Chief Sponsor Representative Larry B. Wiley (House District 31, Salt Lake) and Senate Sponsor Jerry W. Stevenson (Senate District 21, Davis). Please remember to thank them. A copy of the resolution “BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED” (and suitably engrossed, I hope) will be sent to the Utah Department of Natural Resources and the Great Salt Lake Advisory Council.

Kudos to everyone involved in crafting this formal expression replete with “WHEREAS”es that speaks to the broad and significant range of economic, hemispheric, and cultural attributes that our Lake provides for all of us. Special big briny hugs for everyone who took time from their busy lives to trek to the Hill to speak on the Lake’s behalf. The Lake was heard.

It’s a small but significant gesture for a Lake that keeps on giving to the people of Utah, the hemisphere, and the world. To wit: the economic significance of Great Salt Lake to Utah’s annual GDP is $1.3B. It employs over 7,000 Utahns and annually generates over $375M of labor income. It is home to significant hemispheric and global populations of birds that rest, stage, and nest there. The wetlands of Great Salt Lake account for 75 percent of all wetlands in the State of Utah, whose total land area consists of only 1.5 percent wetlands. In 1991, Great Salt Lake was designated as one of only five Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network Sites in the lower 48 States. All five bays of the Lake have been identified as Important Bird Areas by the National Audubon Society because of significant bird use. The Lake’s natural beauty has drawn thousands to make artistic interpretations of its elements, including two landmark earthworks: the Spiral Jetty and the Sun Tunnels. Even Brigham Young swam in the Lake three days after the pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley. (Borrowed directly from the GSL Resolution of Appreciation).

Now that’s what I call the true spirit of giving.

But what makes this gesture an extraordinary one is that most Utahns dismiss Great Salt Lake as something that’s just “out there”. It’s stinky, buggy, and salty.  It’s a cheap and convenient place for industrial discharges. You wouldn’t be surprised to know that many people think that any water that ends up in the Lake is considered wasted. Clearly it’s a misunderstood resource that’s not often regarded as the treasure it is. Preserving and protecting Great Salt Lake for the future is a far-fetched idea to a large portion of the population throughout the state. Just like good jazz, it’s an acquired taste. But definitely one we have to cultivate in our growing population.

“…maybe we have to learn, maybe you have to learn to appreciate and grow up with those experiences because I don’t think there’s very many people that hadn’t lived out here and could express those same feelings. You get visitors out there, they’d don’t like anything about it. It’s a dead lake to them, it stinks, there’s bugs. So maybe you have to learn, you know, by living there and experiencing some of those things, to appreciate it.”--Weber focus group participant - Trentleman study

Bingo! It is all about learning. Learning about why this dry and scratchy lakescape matters. And why this stunning remnant of ancient Lake Bonneville is a sacred place to the people who came before us. At the same time, funding for research to gather more empirical data about what makes this ecosystem tick needs to continue so we can make sound management decisions for the system today and tomorrow. We owe the Lake our commitment of stewardship for its future so we can continue to honor this place as a refuge for the visionaries who settled the valley and the architects who designed Great Salt Lake City on its shores.

“That’s our name to fame. If someone says, ‘where do you live?’ and I say, ‘Have you heard of the Great Salt Lake,’ I don’t care if I’m in Nebraska, or where I’m at, ‘Have you ever heard of the Great Salt Lake?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘I live about three miles from the Great Salt Lake.’ They know where you’re at.” --Weber focus group participant – Trentleman Study

As the renowned writer and painter, Alfred Lambourne, said, “Under certain conditions a place becomes a part of us; we own it.” That is indeed the case with the Lake.

In tandem with the GSL Resolution of Appreciation, another valuable outcome from the legislative session was the approval of $400,000 to fully fund the development of the Great Salt Lake Integrated Water Resource Management Model (IWRMM). This is fantastic news!

Conceived and recommended by Governor Herbert’s Great Salt Lake Advisory Council, and championed by many of us who recognize the importance of having a good water model that focuses its analysis on Great Salt Lake, the IWRMM would serve as an indispensable tool that will enhance decisions that address issues related to future water supply, salinity and Lake level. These factors have a direct affect on the economics, public health, and ecological viability of the system.

The model will take two years to develop. Stakeholders will be invited to help shape its parameters. However, the key to the success and usefulness of the model will depend upon its resilience and flexibility in incorporating ways of using information that might not be easily quantified, simplified, or reduced in the way most models require. It’s imperative that this model is able to “talk” with other models that have been developed in different disciplines to avoid blind spots in comprehensive planning scenarios. Like a working document, the model should have an iterative capability so that it can consider whatever is dished out that is relevant to the water picture for Great Salt Lake.

What you don’t want to do is what was done for the West Davis Freeway proposal. A proposal that is being marketed as the answer to transportation needs of the future in West Davis County, a vast swath of agricultural landscape that lies between I-15 to the east and Great Salt Lake to the west. The genesis of this proposal came from the 1950’s mentality of large-scale automobile investments that promote more roads and encourage sprawl. Using 2040 growth projections along the Wasatch Front and the presumption that vehicle miles traveled would only be increasing, the transportation demand model was designed to answer only one ill conceived question – How can automobile congestion and delays be reduced in this sector over the next 20 years?

Relying on a paralysis of perspective, the model consists of a complex algorithm that digests information about lane miles and population, and spits out minutes of automobile delay. This model supports the argument that the only solution is to increase road capacity. Running on its own parallel track, the model ignores planning efforts like the Wasatch Choice for 2040 growth vision which “considers how growth, mobility, housing and jobs can be shaped for the next few decades to have outstanding positive impacts on the life of residents in the Greater Wasatch Area”.

We can’t afford to take such chances with Great Salt Lake and its water needs.

As a terminal lake that’s currently without its own water right or water appropriation (we’re working on it) it’s obvious that we need to have a much better handle on the status quo of water use and proposed water development as the population continues to grow and climate change affects precipitation, snowpack and run-off.  The Integrated Water Resource Management Model has the potential to be a significant step forward in effective and sustainable management of the Lake.  Hopefully, it will rise to the occasion

“I would say that the one thing that I learned tonight is that I really take the Great Salt Lake for granted. I never realized that it’s one of the special things in my life that probably I’ve overlooked, and didn’t realize it, how it has affected our community as well as my personal life…You live around it. You were a part of it, it was a part of your life and all of a sudden you’re saying, “wow, yeah, it really was,” and it’s still there and what’s gonna become of it? Because there’s gonna be some changes with the Great Salt Lake. We know there’s dams being formed, or being ready, and it’s going to recede…we’re gonna lose a lot of what goes into the Great Salt Lake.”

[Response from another participant] “We have to fight for that so that doesn’t happen.”

--all from Weber focus group participants – Trentleman Study


FRIENDS will be there for the Lake. I hope you’ll be there with us.

In saline,


Thursday, 13 November 2014 00:00

20 Years Protecting Great Salt Lake

Maybe you have heard already but FRIENDS turned 20 this year! In celebration of 20 years protecting our Inland Sea we are adding a new page to the site. A page for reflection and celebration of the work we have done, and the work we will continue to do.

Click here!


Reflections on our 20th Anniversary!

What a great year it has been...

From our “Call to Binoculars” in 1994 to our “Call for a Conservation Pool for the Lake” in 2010, we’ve definitely made a difference.

We’ve made tremendous strides forward in building awareness and appreciation of the Lake. We’ve created valuable tools and shaped important policies to address water quality protection. And we’re even getting a better handle on the “balancing act” of resource development while maintaining the ecological integrity of the system.

FRIENDS is particularly proud of the programs that we have developed in support of these efforts-

More than 19,000 - 4th grade students experienced the ooids and brine of Great Salt Lake through our Lakeside Learning Field Trips that began 14 years ago.

Last May our 10th Biennial Great Salt Lake Issues Forum continued to promote opportunities to explore the complexities involved in research, management and planning for the Lake.

The 12th Doyle Stephens Scholarship was awarded in 2014 to support research on Great Salt Lake systems by students at the university level.

And in September 2014 , the First Annual Alfred Lambourne Prize was awarded to celebrate creative expression within our community inspired by our Inland sea.

But we can do more. And we will.

-FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake



Click here to see the photo's from our 20th Anniversary Gala held at the Rico Warehouse.


A huge thank you to all our sponsors and silent auction donors, click here to see the full list of supporters!



Tuesday, 04 November 2014 00:00

Title V Complaint

The Salt Lake Tribune reports the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment and Friends of Great Salt Lake sue for Utah to take action on refinery pollution permit.



Why We Care

  • Great Salt Lake is a place where nothing is as it appears. It is a landscape of the imagination, where anything is possible.

    Terry Tempest Williams, FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake Advisory Board