UTAH DROUGHT

This is how farmers are saving water for the Great Salt Lake

Oct 23, 2023, 2:00 PM | Updated: 3:22 pm

Saving water for the Great Salt Lake is not an easy task for farmers along the rivers that send wat...

photo credit: Adam Small/KSL NewsRadio

TRENTON, UtahT Dairy sits off of a back road in the Western Cache Valley, about 52 miles by car from Bear River Bay in the Great Salt Lake. The farm, like many in Utah, gets its water from the Great Salt Lake‘s upstream sources, like the Bear River. But now it’s working on saving water for the lake.

According to the Utah Department of Natural Resources, about 65% of the lake’s upstream water goes to agriculture. In the Great Salt Lake Basin, the next highest amount of water goes to industrial and municipal use at 18% — 9% goes to managed wetlands, 8% goes to mineral extraction companies, and 1% is allotted for evaporation.

That 65% has put agriculture a little bit more under the microscope in recent years after the Great Salt Lake hit its lowest level in recorded history in 2022. The lake did rise five and a half feet after the record snowpack and spring runoff that followed, but it’s since lost nearly two feet to evaporation.

State lawmakers and water managers have been in a dead sprint to save the Great Salt Lake — the largest saline lake in the Western Hemisphere — over the last few years. The lake’s decline has exposed miles upon miles of toxic lakebeds, which could have a negative long-term impact on the health of hundreds of thousands of Utahns.

The declining water levels also pose a major threat to brine shrimp fisherman, mineral extractors and the ski industry, all of which contribute millions of dollars to Utah’s economy every year.

What one dairy farm is doing

Tom Griffin’s family has owned their dairy farm since 1942. Just a couple years ago, Griffin said they invested $2.5 million to install a new pump on their land, which he said saves 30% more water than what they had before, conservatively.

“It’s not an easy thing… to go do this,” Griffin said. “This is a great expense that we’re incurring.”

Griffin said they got $500,000 in incentives from a state program, but they’ll likely be paying off the rest over the next 30 years. And this wasn’t the only pump he had installed.

Is saving water for the Great Salt Lake worth it?

When Griffin was asked this, he said, “I hope so.”

A multi-million-dollar expense is a lot to ask of a family-owned dairy farm, but Griffin said the benefits help not only The Great Salt Lake in the long run, but the farmers themselves.

“We’re on board, not only to help conserve… to send it down but for ourselves as well,” Griffin said. “The more we can conserve it and keep it… at Bear Lake, we’re better off for our future as well.”

Thanks to climate change and a growing population, Utah will likely have to continue to learn new ways to take care of the water that it gets. Something Griffin said he hopes others, if they haven’t already, will join in on.

“It’s the most valuable commodity that there is,” Griffin said. “That’s why we’re working very hard and spending that money to conserve it… and get it there [the Great Salt Lake].”

We want to hear from you.

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

Utah Drought

FILE: Joana Abeel holds her daughter, Penelope Abeel, at the Draper City Splash Pad during a heat w...

Alexandrea Bonillla and Simone Seikaly

Above-normal temperatures expected for Utah summer

Summer weather predictions point to a La Niña weather pattern which will bring warm temperatures and dry conditions to Utah.

6 hours ago

High amounts of spring runoff cause swelling of rivers across the state....

Adam Small

Spring runoff causes fast-moving rivers, officials urge caution

Spring runoff is once again in full effect and Utah's rivers, streams and creeks are moving high and fast.

8 hours ago

Utah's water supply is doing well. Promontory Point during an EcoFlight around the Great Salt Lake....

Adam Small

Salt Lake having very dry April, but Utah’s water supply is still in top-notch shape

Utah's water supply is growing but Salt Lake City received a dry start to April. Utah might have something to worry about if May is dry.

3 days ago

an aerial photo shows the great salt lake, water level outlook is looking good for the lake...

Adam Small

The Great Salt Lake has a chance to be healthy again for the first time in over a decade

The water level in the Great Salt Lake is 1.5 feet from the tail-end of its healthy range of 4,196 to 4,200 feet.

5 days ago

Sprinkler goes off, wondering when to turn on sprinklers?...

Adam Small

Don’t turn on the sprinklers just yet, expert says

Wondering when to turn on sprinklers now that we've been having warmer weather? Follow these guidelines to keep your lawn alive while still conserving water.

7 days ago

Warm weather will all for some of the Utah snowpack to begin melting off this weekend....

Adam Small

Utah temperatures warming up, strong snowpack set to start melting

Temperatures in Utah are going to get much warmer over the next few days, allowing for the snowpack we've accumulated to start melting off.

11 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Young couple hugging while a realtor in a suit hands them keys in a new home...

Utah Association of Realtors

Buying a home this spring? Avoid these 5 costly pitfalls

By avoiding these pitfalls when buying a home this spring, you can ensure your investment will be long-lasting and secure.

a person dressed up as a nordic viking in a dragon boat resembling the bear lake monster...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

The Bear Lake monster has captivated people in the region for centuries, with tales that range from the believable to the bizarre.

...

Live Nation Concerts

All the artists coming to Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly USANA Amp) this summer

Summer concerts are more than just entertainment; they’re a celebration of life, love, and connection.

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

This is how farmers are saving water for the Great Salt Lake