Drying Lake Bed Contributes to Utah's Air Quality Problems

19 July 2016 Published in News & Events

Our friends and Energy & Environment News recently published this update on Great Salt Lake. This is part five of their Dead Sea series.

Recent estimpates report, "At least 550 square miles of lake bed is now dry, an area five times the size of Owens Lake -- the site of Los Angeles' water grab at the turn of the 20th century, which led to dust bowl conditions there (Greenwire, June 6).

Dust storms occur regularly in the Great Salt Lake region, and research suggests the lake breathes contaminants -- inhaling filthy air from cities, adding to it and then exhaling it right back at population centers.

The public health consequences of that pollution will be worse than what has occurred at California's imperiled salt lakes, experts say. More than two-thirds of Utah's rapidly growing population -- 2 million people -- breathes that pollution.

'The lake is dynamic, it's always changing, and it's risen and fallen throughout time,' said John Luft, Great Salt Lake Ecosystem Program manager for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

'But this is different. The cumulative impacts of population growth and climate change will increase water consumption. Rather than moving away, people will continue to make this their home. If we are not more conscientious about our water use, we will be facing a disappearing lake.'

Read the full article, "Dead Seas: Great Salt Lake Faces Ruin," here.

To read other articles from the Dead Seas series special report, click here.

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Why We Care

  • The lake is elemental. It seems to arise from creation itself, the embodiment of Aristotle's classical concept of matter and the universe: earth, air, fire, and water. Seen in this ethereal light -- the gloom of dusk lit by fiery sunlight, alien and snow-covered, leaking water and struggling to exist -- it connects to secret and ancient things. Aristotle's insight may have come to him in a dream, and the dream surely looked like this.

    Thomas Horton, Alfred Lambourne Prize Participant