JEFF CAPLAN

It’s not just the drought making the Great Salt Lake mediocre | My Minute of News

Oct 13, 2021, 10:01 AM | Updated: 11:54 am
great salt lake...
FILE -- The waters of the Great Salt Lake barely reach the marina on Antelope Island on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)
(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

This is an editorial piece. An editorial, like a news article, is based on fact but also shares opinions. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and are not associated with our newsroom.


Can we still call it the Great Salt Lake?

I went to Antelope Island a few weeks ago. It was soul-crushing to discover it’s not really an island anymore. Almost all of the water that separates Antelope from the Wasatch Front is gone! You could probably walk across and your ankles would stay dry.

Take a trip to the water’s edge, and you’ll discover for yourself that it’s now the Mediocre Salt Lake. At best.

This is not only because of climate change: Development and our growing population suck up all the water before it ever gets to the lake and what’s left behind is an ever-growing dustbowl.

FILE — The Salt Lake City skyline rises above a receding Great Salt Lake as pictured from Antelope Island on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020.
Steve Griffin, Deseret News

I’ve seen the swirl of dust gust grow worse. Over the past six months whenever we’d a big storm, I’d go out on our screened porch and watch the clouds roll in.

I’d enjoy the swaying trees and listen to the rain. After about 20 minutes, I’d go back inside and the entire kitchen would be covered in grit.

I’d never seen this before: Fine sand coated the counters, the toaster, and the stove. I’d run my hand over the countertop and ask my wife “WHAT IS THIS?”

We’d have to clean every surface — all because I left the back door open for 20 lousy minutes.

The experts say these dust storms will get worse as the Salt Lake turns into Salt Gulch. They say the dust on my counters likely contains toxic chemicals, including arsenic.

Meantime without a GREAT Salt Lake, our mountains can’t draw the moisture needed to make that perfect winter powder. Less powder means a smaller snowpack and less runoff. And that leaves us with less water for drinking and farming.

No matter where you stand on climate change, this is a man-made problem: We siphon off the water to quench the thirst of a growing population long before the water ever reaches the Lake – the ever-shrinking Salt Lake.

 

So what shall we do?

 

Well, the Utah Legislature could pass some laws to ensure water reaches the lake. If they don’t, it’d be nice if the lawmakers would come and clean my kitchen.


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