FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake hosted the regional participation of The Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup. On Saturday, September 15, over 60 volunteers removed 2,444.4 lbs. of trash and debris from the shoreline of our inland sea.

Thanks to generous sponsorships from Autoliv and BudgetDumpster, FRIENDS was able to expand this year’s cleanup and work at two primary sites: the Lee Creek Natural Area along the Lake’s south shore and the eastern shoreline of Antelope Island.

Of the debris volunteers removed were mattresses, televisions, a toilet, and a copy machine, as well as countless plastic bottles, plastic straws, shotgun shells, and cigarette butts. Hazardous waste was separated and disposed of responsibly.   

While it is unfortunate that some people continue to use Great Salt Lake as a dumping ground, this event helps promote Great Salt Lake’s hemispheric importance, and inspires others to preserve and protect it.

Thank you to our many individual volunteers and our community partners: Compass Minerals, Great Salt Lake Audubon, The Nature Conservancy, Utah Division of Forestry Fire and State Lands, and Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.  

To read more about The Ocean Conservancy’s efforts, click here. 

To read more about BudgetDumpster's community programs, click here. 

Wednesday, 12 September 2018 08:46

Survey: Regional Water Efficiency

The Utah Division of Water Resources is engaged in a study to determine water efficiency potential by region. The result of this study will be new  regional and statewide water efficiency goals. Your, and your community's, input is an important part of this process. Please fill out the following survey yourself, and share the link via newsletter, social media, website and any other communications tools you use in order to help us gain the regional context needed. Also, please share it with your mayors, city councils, boards and employees. 

There will also be other opportunities to engage in this process, which will be announced in the coming weeks. Thank you for your participation and help getting the word out. 

Joshua Palmer; WE3 Section Manager

Utah Division of Water Resources


By Taylor Stevens, Salt Lake Tribune

Early Tuesday morning, Paul Hirst received a call with “unprecedented” news: Twenty-five million gallons of water had been drained from one of the Benchland Irrigation Water District’s reservoirs overnight, leaving it empty for the first time anyone working there can remember.

A water shortage, spurred by low snowpack, dry conditions and rapid population growth, led the district to implement tough usage restrictions earlier this month on the east Farmington residents it serves in Davis County.

“We use 30 million gallons a day [on average], which is obscene to be using that much water,” said Hirst, who’s a member of the district’s board of trustees. “There isn’t a supply large enough to meet that demand. So we have these reservoirs that we fill that then can take that demand but they don’t empty and they haven’t ever emptied — until now.” 

Even with a $50 fine for a first offense — and complete disconnection from the water system on the third — the district can’t seem to break customers of the habit of chronic overwatering, said Hirst. Officials issued 400 citations during their first enforcement last weekend of the watering restriction from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday.

Hirst said he believes some of the people who received citations may have watered their lawns the entire night, in a “vindictive” effort to make a point. The district has received a number of angry calls and even threats of lawsuits over the restrictions.

Click here to continue reading.

Executive Director's Message – Summer 2018

“The Lake is as essential to who we are and what we are as anything. When Great Salt Lake is in peril, the state is in peril. “

–Warren Peterson, State Water Strategy Advisory Team Co-chair

 On March 23, 2018, water right application No. 23-3972 was filed jointly by the Utah Division of Water Resources, and the Water Resources Board of Idaho for 400,000 acre.-ft. of Bear River water. The application was filed with the Utah Division of Water Rights and proposes to store, and appropriate water that would normally be released from Bear Lake or bypass Bear Lake as a part of flood control during spring runoff. The sources of this water would include:

1) “The Bear River” (which provides the lion’s share of inflows (60%) to Great Salt Lake)

2) “Flood control releases tributary to Bear River”

3) Bear Lake inflows “tributary to Bear River”

Got that?

 Beneficiaries of this stored and appropriated water would include agricultural irrigators within the Bear River Basin in Utah and Idaho, together with municipal and industrial users in selected counties in southern Idaho and along the Wasatch Front. And, although recreation and the environment have been gratuitously tossed into the mix of these beneficiaries, it’s too early to say what that would look like. The Division of Water Resources (Water Resources) is emphasizing that the only way to provide insightful scenarios to answer questions being raised about volume, distribution, timing of flows, and environmental impacts or benefits to Bear Lake and Great Salt Lake will come through improved modeling of the Bear River system. Currently, the model of the system stops at the state line between Utah and Idaho. To develop a more comprehensive understanding, modeling needs to extend to the river’s headwaters in the High Uintas. This will take months, money, and an interstate effort. 

It should be noted that Idaho had initially intended to file the Bear River water right application on its own. However in February, Utah was invited to participate, as was Wyoming – which declined. I do wonder what might have happened if Utah had not been asked to file jointly.  

Although many people were surprised by the news when it was finally made public more than a week after the filing, it’s fair to say that the Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands (State Lands) and PacifiCorp were totally blindsided. 

State Lands is a sister division with Water Resources in the Department of Natural Resources. Its jurisdictional responsibility is to manage the Great Salt Lake Ecosystem as a public trust resource in perpetuity for the people of Utah. About a year ago, it completed a multi year process to develop a tool called the Great Salt Lake Integrated Water Model (GSLIM). The price tag for that was $400,000. The purpose of this model is to help State Lands manage the Lake and its resources more effectively by taking into account upstream diversions in the watershed. To say the least, this water right filing would be a significant factor in that management dynamic and until the revised Bear River model is incorporated into the GSLIM no one can fully predict how various scenarios of Bear River storage and future development will alter the Lake. 

PacifiCorp has been operating on the Bear River since practically the dawn of creation. It’s a source of hydroelectric power in Utah and Idaho, delivers irrigation water to stakeholders along the Bear River, and operates the top 21.65’ of Bear Lake as a storage reservoir for flood control. Through court decrees, the Bear River Compact, and other settlement agreements, PacifiCorp has legal and contractual responsibilities that it is expected to meet. At the very least, in both the interest of working to achieve effective interdivisional communication, as well as promoting the practice of interstate comity, you would think that these two key stakeholders would have been notified in advance of the filing. 

It’s difficult not to confuse this joint water right application with the Bear River Development Project because the initial amount of water that Utah and Idaho can develop under the Project is the same – 400,000 acre-ft. – sort of. And although Water Resources says that this water is for flood storage in Bear Lake and not for development, it’s troubling nonetheless. It’s troubling because the annual flow of Bear River into Great Salt Lake is about 1.2 million acre-feet. And the basic fact here is that taking water out of the Bear River system is taking more water out of the system. And that’s a lot of water and the Lake can’t afford it. So we’ve got to push the pause button, comment and protest, and require the necessary scrutiny that the Lake deserves. If the application is approved by Utah and Idaho water authorities, we need to be sure that at the very least, there is no net decrease, and indeed, that some additional water comes to the Lake.  

But more to the point with this filing, it is a clarion call for Great Salt Lake’s future. This will be the first of many water claims on the Lake that will succeed in its demise of a death by a thousand cuts unless we declare our intention to save it NOW!

When the Bear River Compact was amended in 1980, it allocated ALL the waters of the Bear River – to Utah, Idaho and Wyoming. And none for the Lake itself. So much for Utah’s last untapped water source. These allocations include additional storage of 75,000 acre-ft. above Bear Lake, and additional depletion/consumption of 400,000 acre-ft. below Bear Lake, which is something we should all find unconscionable. The first right to develop and deplete would go to Idaho –125,000 acre- ft. and then to Utah – 275,000 acre- ft. If there is anything left beyond that depletion, Utah and Idaho can each deplete an additional 75,000 acre-ft. of water. Any remaining water would be divided up on a 70/30 basis. This would be a total depletion of 550,000 acre-ft. of Bear River water and the demise of Great Salt Lake as we know it. Average lake elevations would hover between 4192’ and 4194’ for extensive periods of time (20-40 yrs) exposing untold thousands of acres of lakebed to potential dust events, navigation and recreation would be severely impacted, Gunnison Island, home to the 3rd largest breeding population of American White Pelicans in North America would be exposed for periods of 40 years, migratory bird use and habitats would be in trouble, and all industries including the brine shrimp fishery would be significantly impacted. Just because we can doesn’t mean we should. 

In Leia Larsen’s April 4th Standard Examiner article about the UT/ID water right, Eric Millis, Water Resources director and Bear River Commissioner said, “It is water that would’ve gone to Great Salt Lake, that’s true. I think in the discussion we have to have, we’d be looking at what we are doing to and for Great Salt Lake in all of this.”

What’s important to remember in this conversation is how critical timing and the volume of inflows to the Lake are. There is a direct effect on lake levels that in turn influences ecological dynamics and economic values of the system. That’s why in this newsletter we have included a protest filed against application No. 23-3972 by Dr. Wally Gwynn. Although no formal public notification of the application has been made yet, when the news of the joint filing became public, protests were immediately being filed. Gwynn has calculated how 400,000 acre- ft. of Bear River inflows to Great Salt Lake at different elevations has a significant impact on salinity, the brine shrimp fishery, migratory birds, and mineral extraction. When you fold climate change into the mix, you’ll see how that amount of water flowing into the Lake from the Bear River provides a critical cushion for the system. Without this cushion there will be dire consequences to the Lake. In the initial characterizations of the joint filing by Water Resources about how Great Salt Lake could fit into the “Win-Win-Win” outcome it envisioned, water to the Lake would be too little and too late to address the cushion Gwynn identifies. 

Since Great Salt Lake belongs to all of us as a public trust resource, Water Resources is conducting a scoping process. It’s an attempt to bring stakeholders up to speed on this issue, hear our questions and concerns, and engage us more fully. To date, Water Resources has met with 33 different stakeholder interests that include representatives from Idaho and Wyoming, PacifiCorp, water conservation districts, conservation, recreation, and GSL interests, the Great Salt Lake Advisory Council, the State Water Development Commission, GSL Technical Team, and members of the Executive Water Task Force. One useful outcome from all of this would be a scoping document that reflects this comprehensive input and provides a responsible basis for moving forward on this front.

The State Engineer of Utah and Idaho’s comparable authority have been asked not to act on the filing by putting it out for public notification. At the very least, modeling the entire Bear River system, generating various scenarios from the modeling, incorporating those scenarios in the Great Salt Lake Integrated Water Model, and including the scoping results should be a prerequisite to going “public.” Once that public notification happens, there is a 2-week notification period followed by just a 20-day public comment period during which time protests can be filed with the State Engineer. Confusingly, protests can also be filed now – before the filing is public. The application can be reviewed at: Comments can be emailed to or mailed to Utah Division of Water Rights, 1594 West North Temple, Suite 220, P.O. Box 146300, Salt Lake City, Utah 84114-6300. All comments and protests should reference Water Right 23-3972.

On April 17th, the Bear River Commission met at the Department of Natural Resources to discuss public input that began a year ago as a part of a 20-yr review of the Bear River Compact. Article 14 in the Compact provides this unique review opportunity for the Commission to consider any reopening requests and/or amendments proposed through this process. If after extensive study and review the Commission agrees to support amending the Compact – a Herculean prospect to say the least that would take years – “amendments would require approval of all three states, ratification by their respective legislatures and approval by all three governors, as well as consent by Congress and approval by the President.

During this 20-year review process, 67 written comments were received. Five of them requested reopening and amending the Compact. As one of them, FRIENDS urged the Commission to recognize and incorporate a greater understanding of Great Salt Lake, its ecological significance and economic importance into the infrastructure of the Bear River Compact and management of Bear River. A telling remark from one of the Idaho Commissioners that made my jaw drop was that, although it was clear that there are values and concerns about Great Salt Lake that need to be addressed, it was Utah’s problem. The Commission passed a resolution not to amend the Compact. However, the Commission voted to refer a request to its technical committee to study a recommendation for some kind of mechanism or committee for environmental concerns that could be incorporated into the management considerations. This will be revisited at a future meeting. 

It’s been a year since FRIENDS and 40 other members of the State Water Strategy Advisory Team presented the July 2017 Recommended State Water Strategy to Governor Herbert. The Strategy is a timely and responsible outcome that is intended to begin laying the foundation for a necessary dialogue about water policy and collaborative decision-making for the second most arid state in the nation, one that continues to grow. 

Given what we know about the fate of the Bear River and how diversions and development will impact the Lake, we need to build collaborative partnerships and find solutions that will work. We don’t have the luxury of time. The Lake will not wait for us. Although the responsibility to sustain the Great Salt Lake Ecosystem in perpetuity falls squarely on the shoulders of the State, it’s up to us to make sure that happens. 


In saline, 


Louis Sahagun, LA Times

When dust storms began rising off the dry bed of Owens Lake, authorities in the Eastern Sierra blamed Los Angeles’ thirst. The city had, after all, drained the lake in the 1920s to serve its faucets.

Now, as dust kicks up from Mono Lake, authorities in the Eastern Sierra are once again blaming that water-craving metropolis about 350 miles to the south.

But this time, they’re also blaming climate change.

Since 1994, a landmark State Water Resources Control Board decision has capped L.A.’s diversions of the streams that feed Mono Lake, defusing for a time one of California’s most protracted environmental battles.

Scientists say climatic shifts, however, are bringing less snow to the Sierra Nevada and less snowmelt to Mono Lake. That means if Los Angeles keeps taking its allocated share, it will lead to a decline in lake levels and increased health risks for those exposed to windblown dust from the receding shoreline, according to the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District.

To protect Mono Basin’s ecosystem and airshed, regulatory officials say, will require drafting new predictive models of precipitation, temperature and evaporation rates to control diversions into an aqueduct system that has transformed the ancient brine lake into the largest source of powder-fine air pollution in the United States.

Of particular concern are particulates of 10 microns or less, which are regulated by state and federal laws because they can lodge deep in the lungs, causing respiratory injuries. Dust storms at Mono Lake exceeded federal health standards 33 times in 2016, officials said.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power takes issue with the Great Basin district’s warning that more restrictive measures may be needed to meet clean air standards.

“We’re headed for a showdown with Los Angeles; no doubt about it,” said Phillip Kiddoo, air pollution control officer at Great Basin.

Mono Lake

Phillip Kiddoo, air pollution control officer for the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District, walks across salt and fine white sand at Mono Lake's shoreline, which is prone to dust storms. Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

“The best way to control Mono’s airborne particulates is to raise the lake level, submerging exposed areas of lake bed prone to dust storms,” Kiddoo said. “To do that, however, L.A. has to agree to further reduce its annual exports of water, which isn’t likely.

“While we cannot interfere with L.A.’s water conveyance system, we could file a lawsuit,” he said. “And California health and safety codes give Great Basin authority to assess the city for our legal expenses.”

Rich Harasick, the DWP’s senior assistant general manager of the water system, said further reductions of its water exports aren’t needed. Since the water board’s 1994 decision, he said, the utility’s diversions have had “a very limited influence on Mono Lake’s elevation.”

Today, he said, the lake level is mainly influenced by weather conditions, which are affecting watersheds in which it operates throughout the Eastern Sierra.




Los Angeles Times Click here to continue reading.

Lake Bonneville Geologic Conference October 3-4, 2018

Lake Bonneville Geologic Short Course October 5-6, 2018

The conference and short course will be held at the Utah Department of Natural Resources Auditorium at 1594 West North Temple in Salt Lake City, Utah. The conference will be open to the geologic community. The conference will cover geologic topic related to pre-Bonneville Quaternary lakes, Lake Bonneville, the Gilbert episode, and Great Salt Lake. The short course will be led by Jack Oviatt and will review Lake Bonneville geology. The first day of the short course will consist of classroom instruction and the second day will consist of a field trip to nearby sites where Bonneville stratigraphy and landforms will be observed. These meetings are sponsored by the Utah Geological Survey and the Utah Division of Professional and Occupational Licensing.

The conference format will include technical presentations, a poster session, and group discussions.

If you are interested in presenting at the conference, please contact Adam McKean for further information. Registration for the meeting will hopefully open by the end of July. A separate formal announcement will be sent out with an online registration link on that day.

A registration fee of $26 per day will be charged all participants (lunch, morning and afternoon snacks, and short course booklet will be provided).

Please contact Adam McKean with questions (801-537-3386 or

Partial funding for this educational opportunity has been provided by the Utah Division of Occupational & Professional Licensing and the Education and Enforcement Fund.

Click here for more information.

Thursday, 28 June 2018 08:48

A Recipe For Extreme Organisms

By Brian Switek

Look at the Great Salt Lake and you might think of the vast body of water as lifeless. That’s far from the truth, of course. Not only is the Great Salt Lake home to an incredible number of brine shrimp - fodder for migrating birds looking to refuel - it also boasts microscopic life that’s adapted to the harsh conditions of the super-salty water. They’re called halophiles, and our Natural History Museum of Utah exhibit staff has just come up with a perfect recipe to help them thrive in our exhibit about the local lake.

There’s no single biological category for halophiles. “Most of them are bacteria,” Museum exhibit services supervisor Will Black says, “but they could also be eukaryotes,” or organisms made up of a cell or cells containing their DNA inside a nucleus. Regardless of their classification, though, Black notes that what makes halophiles distinct is right there in their name - halophile is Greek for “salt-loving.”

Click here to read on.gsl ha 2

Register for the Dialogue on Collaboration

June 21, 2018, 1:00 - 5:00 pm

SJ Quinney College of Law, Level 6

The Great Salt Lake:

What Can Collaboration Bring to the Table?

Registration for the June Dialogue on Collaboration on "The Great Salt Lake: What Can Collaboration Bring to the Table?" closes June 13. Space is limited, so we recommendregistering soon.

Dialogue participants will have the opportunity to learn about and practice collaboration skills, network with peers, and discuss interconnected challenges and opportunities for collaboration around the Great Salt Lake. Guest speakers will help set the stage for productive, informed dialogue.

Confirmed speakers:

  • Bonnie Baxter, Great Salt Lake Institute
  • Laura Ault, Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands
  • Steve Clyde, Clyde Snow Attorneys at Law
  • Jeff Richards, Rocky Mountain Power

The Dialogue is co-hosted by the Environmental Dispute Resolution Program, part of the Wallace Stegner Center at the S.J. Quinney College of Law, and The Langdon Group.

This event is free and open to the public and refreshments will be served. Free parking will be available to participants at the Rice-Eccles Stadium. We encourage you to take public transportation to our events. Email Katherine Daly with additional

This Dialogue on Collaboration is generously sponsored by:

The Dialogue is part of the Utah Program on Collaboration, which includes:

Click here to view any of the wonderful 2018 Issues Forum Presentations. Thank you again to our sponsors, speakers, and everyone who made this event a big briny success. 



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