ENVIRONMENT

Great Salt Lake agencies want mineral-extracting companies to return water to lake

Sep 14, 2023, 4:56 PM | Updated: Sep 20, 2023, 12:57 pm

great salt lake shore -- Multiple agencies overseeing the Great Salt Lake want any mineral-extracti...

FILE: Paddleboarders leave the water at the Great Salt Lake State Park in Salt Lake City on Friday, June 10, 2022. (Laura Seitz/Deseret News)

(Laura Seitz/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Multiple agencies overseeing the Great Salt Lake want any mineral-extracting newcomers to put all the water they use back into the lake instead of the more common practice of evaporating the water.

Utah Division of Water Quality Director John Mackey said both the DWQ and the Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands want new mineral extractors to the Great Salt Lake to, at least in most cases, put all the water they use back into the lake under a new law passed by state lawmakers.

The agencies want newcomers to use advanced extraction technology to remove the minerals. The final process is to return all or most of the water into the lake.

“And in some cases, I mean I think a lot of the science says ‘Well, there’s bound to be some loss.’ But very close to being ‘what comes out, goes back in,” Mackey said about the process. “It’s just critical that they wind up net neutral.”

This approach is different from the evaporation pools used by many existing companies on the lake. Many of the existing companies that extract minerals from the Great Salt Lake use the pools to separate the water from the salt.

While it could take time to see it in action, the hope is that companies can extract the minerals, but not contribute further to the still-struggling water levels.

Mackey said this could save a lot of water the lake can’t afford to lose anymore.

“I mean these are hundreds of thousands of acre-feet. And those are really, really big quantities. Those are not quantities that you can make up.”

Mackey said this rule, once it’s in place, would target new companies, not those who’ve been operating on the lake previously. 

Related: GSL license plate nears halfway mark

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Great Salt Lake agencies want mineral-extracting companies to return water to lake