January 05, 2023

Fox 13 News: Researchers, environmental groups call for 'emergency rescue' of Great Salt Lake

By: Ben Winslow

Posted at 12:00 AM, Jan 05, 2023 and last updated 11:30 AM, Jan 05, 2023

Click here to read the full article on the Fox 13 News website.

SALT LAKE CITY — A group of researchers and environmentalists are calling for an "emergency rescue" by policymakers to save the Great Salt Lake.

In a new report issued Thursday, 31 different conservationists and researchers from 11 academic institutions declared that Utahns are "underestimating the severity of consequences if the lake's decline isn't reversed." It warned that the Great Salt Lake could vanish within five years if no action is taken and called for emergency measures by the Utah State Legislature and Governor Spencer Cox.

Among the action items, a minimum of 2.5 million acre-feet of water going into the Great Salt Lake to reverse its collapse. That would require at least 30-50% reductions in water consumption in the Great Salt Lake watershed, from agriculture to residential.

But the report cautions that you cannot blame any single group (agriculture is a favorite target as it is the state's largest water user). Instead, the authors urge solidarity among all water users to save the Great Salt Lake. The lake has declined as a result of water diversion and a changing climate to its lowest levels in recorded history. A declining lake presents an existential threat to Utah. There's toxic dust storms, decreased snowpack, billions in economic losses and the loss of habitat for millions of migratory birds and other wildlife.

"It is really encouraging to see the level of community involvement and leadership around Great Salt Lake. State leaders, farmers, and so many others are working on exactly the kind of long-term solutions we need," said Dr. Ben Abbott, a professor of aquatic ecology at Brigham Young University and one of the authors of the report. "However, the lake is really close to the edge, and the decisions we make in the coming few months will affect our community and ecosystems across the hemisphere. This winter’s above-average snowfall gives us a chance to give the lake a much- needed infusion of freshwater, but that’s only going to happen if we come together and put an emergency rescue into place. We need bold leadership and support from every water user and organization in the watershed."

Click here to continue reading this article on the Fox 13 News website.