UTAH DROUGHT

Your Diet Coke can could be in jeopardy if the Great Salt Lake dries up

Jul 29, 2022, 1:15 PM | Updated: Aug 2, 2022, 10:20 am

The drying Great Salt Lake is pictured at Farmington Bay...

Record low water levels are seen in the Farmington Bay from Antelope Island on Friday, July 22, 2022. (Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — If the toxic dust possible from the drying Great Salt Lake isn’t enough to worry you, maybe losing your Diet Coke can will.

Among the minerals harvested at the lake is magnesium. And it’s used to make the can that holds the soda.

“So when you drink a soda, like a Diet Coke, that magnesium is mixed in with the aluminum and that’s what allows the aluminum to be pressed so thin,” said Joel Ferry, the acting director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources.

“So next time you drink a Diet Coke, thank the Great Salt Lake,” he said.

That’s just one of the dozens of industries that use the resources of the lake.

What else is at risk if the Great Salt Lake continues to decline?

Ferry estimates that “the economic output of GSL is $1.32 billion annually, with a total labor income of $375.1 million and total employment of 7,706 jobs.”

Those almonds you like to eat?

Sulfate of potash is a huge product, probably the single biggest product that comes off the lake,” said Ferry.

Tree nut production uses sulfate of potash as a fertilizer for nuts like pistachios, and almonds.

Another impact on food could come from brine shrimp, who feed the farm-raised shrimp much of us eat.

Any beyond food?

Lithium, used in batteries like the ones used for electric cars, could also be affected.

“Mining companies extract nearly 2 million tons of minerals per year. Water is removed from diked ponds by evaporation. There are over 85,000 acres of diked evaporation ponds in the Great Salt Lake – comprising an area twice that of San Francisco,” according to the DNR.

Even Utah’s famous skiing could be affected. Lake effect snow helps contribute to the “Greatest Snow on Earth.”

“And so when you think about the quality of life, the things in our daily lives, eating a pistachio, eating an almond, eating some shrimp, drinking a Diet Coke, those are all things we enjoy because of the Great Salt Lake,” said Ferry.

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Your Diet Coke can could be in jeopardy if the Great Salt Lake dries up