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Western US drought pushes Great Salt Lake to its lowest on record – Science-Environment News – Report by AFR

Water in Utah’s Great Salt Lake has fallen to its lowest level on record, authorities said this week, a result of the ongoing drought affecting the western United States that scientists warn is being exacerbated by climate change .

The average depth of the massive saltwater lake, the largest in the western hemisphere, varies naturally with the seasons and local rainfall.

But the economically and ecologically important basin has never been this low since records began in 1847, when Mormons first arrived to found Salt Lake City.

The previous record low was reached in October 2021, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said in a news release on Tuesday.

“This is not the kind of record we like to break,” Joel Ferry, executive director of Utah’s Department of Natural Resources, said in the joint statement.

“Urgent action is required to protect and preserve this critical resource. It’s clear the lake is in trouble,” he added.

Based on trends from previous years, “lake levels will likely continue to fall into the fall or early winter, when the amount of water entering the lake will equal or exceed evaporative losses,” the USGS said.

The Utah state government estimates that the Great Salt Lake contributes up to $1.3 billion annually to the local economy through a variety of industries including mining, fish farming and tourism.

The depletion of the lake could also threaten the large numbers of migratory birds that stop there each year and have serious health implications for the local population.

Scientists recently warned that hazardous arsenic-rich sediments lie along the lake floor and could be carried by the wind if exposed to air.

Almost the entire American west is being hit by a major drought that has reduced water flow in rivers and dramatically reduced water levels in key reservoirs such as Lake Mead and Lake Powell.

Climatologists note that the region has historical precedent for droughts lasting longer than 20 years, but that their severity has increased due to rising global temperatures due to human activities.

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