77°F
weather icon Clear

Great Salt Lake’s water levels drop to historic low

SALT LAKE CITY — The water levels at the Great Salt Lake have hit a historic low, a grim milestone for the largest natural lake west of the Mississippi River that comes as a megadrought grips the region.

On Saturday, the U.S. Geological Survey announced average daily water levels had dropped about an inch below the previous record of 4,191.4 feet, which was set in 1963.

The new record comes months earlier than when the lake typically hits its lowest level of the year, indicating water levels could continue to drop even further, said Candice Hasenyager, the deputy director of Utah’s Division of Water Resources.

Receding water s are already affecting a nesting spot for pelicans, which are among the millions of birds dependent on the lake. Sailboats have been hoisted out of the water to keep them from getting stuck in the mud. More dry lakebed getting exposed could send arsenic-laced dust into the air that millions breathe.

People for years have been diverting water from rivers that flow into the lake to water crops and supply homes. Because the lake is shallow — about 35 feet at its deepest point — less water quickly translates to receding shorelines.

Most years, the Great Salt Lake gains up to 2 feet from spring runoff. This year, it was just 6 inches.

The drought is drying up lakes across the West and worsening massive wildfires affecting California and Oregon. Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, a Republican, has begged people to cut back on lawn watering and “pray for rain.”

Extreme conditions like these are often from a combination of unusual random, short-term and natural weather patterns heightened by long-term, human-caused climate change.

Scientists have long warned that the weather will get wilder as the world warms, and climate change has made the West much warmer and drier in the past 30 years.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST
California struggles to conserve water during historic drought

Californians failed to significantly cut back their water consumption in July, state officials announced Tuesday, foreshadowing some difficult decisions for Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration.

 
Giant sequoia trees escape California wildfire

The ancient massive trees of Sequoia National Park’s famed Giant Forest were unscathed Tuesday even though a wildfire has been burning near them on the western side of California’s Sierra Nevada for nearly two weeks.

Water agencies in California resolve Colorado River dispute

Two major California water agencies have settled a lawsuit that once threatened to derail a multi-state agreement to protect a river that serves millions of people in the U.S. West amid gripping drought.

Body in Wyoming believed to be Gabrielle Petito, boyfriend sought

Authorities say a body discovered Sunday in Wyoming is believed to be Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito, who disappeared while on a cross-country trek with a boyfriend who has been identified by authorities as a person of interest and is being sought within a Florida nature preserve.

 
Space tourists end trip safely off Florida coast

Four space tourists safely ended their trailblazing trip to orbit Saturday with a splashdown in the Atlantic off the Florida coast.