Utah’s Great Salt Lake reached its lowest level on record this week. It is victim like all the western United States of a chronic drought exacerbated by climate change, announced the local authorities.
The level of the lake, one of the largest salt lakes in the continental United States, fluctuates naturally with the seasons and rainfall. But never had it been so low since measurements began in 1847, with the arrival of the first Mormons in the Salt Lake City region.
This historic record was beaten for the first time in October 2021, recalls in a press release the American Institute of Geophysics (USGS).
“That’s not the kind of record we like to beat,” said Utah Natural Resources Services Director Joel Ferry in the joint statement. “Urgent action is needed to help protect and preserve this vital resource. It is clear that the lake has problems,” he insists.
Based on past readings, “the level of the lake will likely continue to drop until the fall or early winter, when the amount of water entering the lake will equal or exceed its losses. by evaporation,” explains the USGS.
Utah authorities are concerned about the impact of the phenomenon on the economy and the environment. According to their estimates, the Grand Lac Salé contributes annually to the tune of 1.3 billion dollars to the local economy, whether it is the mining industry, fish farming or tourist activities.
More worrying, the reduction of the lake also threatens many species of migratory birds that stop there and it could also have health repercussions for the local population. Scientists recently warned of arsenic-rich sediments lining the bottom of the lake. They could be carried by the wind and eventually poison humans who breathe them in if the surface of the lake decreases excessively.
Almost all of the western United States is in the grip of an exceptional drought which is reducing the flow of rivers and causing the level of lakes and reservoirs to drop dramatically.
Climatologists explain that there have already been droughts persisting for more than twenty years in the region. But the phenomenon, now combined with rising temperatures largely caused by human activities, is transforming the region.