Hefty snowstorm helping thirsty Great Salt Lake escape mega-drought, but keep it coming

Feb 22, 2023, 6:00 PM
great salt lake is pictured, a new trust and commissioner for it are on the horizon...
I-80 near the Great Salt Lake on Feb. 7, 2023. (Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News)
(Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Thanks to a abundant water season so far, the Great Salt Lake has gained about a foot of water after dropping to the lowest levels on record in November during an exceptional drought in the West. 

How bad is the Western drought? New study says worst in 1,200 years. You read that right.

The lake also is benefitting from a hefty snowstorm dumping over Utah for most of Tuesday.

So much snow in northern Utah! When does it end?

Kevin Perry, professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Utah, joins Debbie Dujanovic to discuss the Great Salt Lake and how much of an impact all the snow this winter is having on the lake.

Perry said the lake gets all of its water from the snowpack and is at the mercy of its upstream users.

“In a normal year like this where we have a good snowpack, we can expect the lake to rise probably 3 or 3 1/2 feet in the spring and then during the summer, it’ll drop by 2 to 2 1/2 feet due to evaporation,” Perry said. “So we’re likely to get a net increase of about a foot and a half, which sounds great, but unfortunately, we’ve lost 5 feet on the lake in the last five years.”

Snow is awesome, but not awesome enough

“So while it’s awesome,” Debbie said, “it’s not awesome enough?”

“It’s not awesome enough because we need to change our behavior to conserve,” he said.

Perry said in a dry year, it’s difficult to conserve because the reservoirs are low. But in a wet year it’s important to conserve water to avoid dust blowing off the lake. And to keep the ecosystem linked to the lake from dying.

“We have 2.5 million residents along the edges of the lake. These dust plumes come off and make the air unhealthy regardless of what’s in it,” Perry told NBC News in December.

30% water savings is the target

Utah would need to receive a snowpack of at least 130% to keep the lake from shrinking and to maintain the water diversions from the lake that are already in place, he said.

“The snowpack is about 114% of normal,” Perry said. “We need more snow just to get above the 130% so that the lake will not shrink this year. . . . We need to use 30% less water than we currently use.” 

Perry said Utah agricultural industries use about 80% of the water diverted from the Great Salt Lake. Also, Utahns use about 55% of their water outdoors where it cannot be regained unlike indoor water.

“The state Legislature last year invested heavily in agricultural infrastructure to improve the water delivery methods so that farmers could use less water to grow the same amount of crops,” he said. “The Great Salt Lake Strike Team, which I’m a member of, basically determined that increasing the infrastructure for agriculture could actually end up saving us 15% of our water without actually reducing crop yields.”

Further reading:

Utahns Encouraged to Participate in USU Future of Great Salt Lake Survey


Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.  

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories

Utah Drought

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Angel Moroni atop The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-d...
Ben Winslow, FOX 13

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says it plans more Great Salt Lake, water conservation measures

The Church is looking at properties and water shares it owns in the counties that surround the Great Salt Lake for future donations.
8 hours ago
great salt lake is pictured...
Kate Davis and Lindsay Aerts

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints donates water shares to help Great Salt Lake

Gov. Spencer Cox expressed his gratitude to the church for the donation, saying that the decision makes the lake's future more secure.
5 days ago
(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Construction above Pineview Reservoir in Eden on Thursday, J...
Leia Larsen, Salt Lake Tribune

Farmers are skeptical about participating in water leasing to save the Great Salt Lake

Like a lot of farmers, Harris doesn’t want to see the Great Salt Lake’s demise. But he’s skeptical he can help.
5 days ago
Wilson's Phalaropes and flamingos at Laguna Mar Chiquita. (Photo: Yanina Druetta)...
Aimee Van Tatenhove, Utah Public Radio

Ambitious initiatives and shorebirds connect two saline lakes hemispheres apart

As saline lakes continue to shrink globally, environmental protections are critical for these threatened ecosystems.
10 days ago
Starting Tuesday, the US Bureau of Reclamation will suspend extra water releases from Utah's Flamin...
Ella Nilsen, CNN

Great snowfall has Feds suspending water releases from Flaming Gorge

The extra water from Flaming Gorge was released to help increase water levels at Lake Powell. The extra snow this year has eased the need, somewhat.
12 days ago
A dried marina pictured, most recent utah drought update isn't looking great...
Curt Gresseth

Lawmakers’ 2023 efforts to address water, drought and Great Salt Lake

The director of Salt Lake City Public Utilities talks about bills addressing water issues during the past legislative session and efforts made to help conserve water and preserve the shrinking Great Salt Lake.
13 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Skier being towed by a rider on a horse. Skijoring....
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking for a new winter activity? Try skijoring in Bear Lake

Skijoring is when someone on skis is pulled by a horse, dog, animal, or motor vehicle. The driver leads the skiers through an obstacle course over jumps, hoops, and gates.
Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five common causes of Cervical Cancer – and what you can do to lower your risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get ready for fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy.
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...

15 easy Christmas dinner ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...

The Best Tools for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Workplace Success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Hefty snowstorm helping thirsty Great Salt Lake escape mega-drought, but keep it coming