WEATHER

Great Salt Lake managers holding out hope following slow start to winter snowfall

Jan 2, 2024, 2:00 PM

Great Salt Lake shore...

Great Salt Lake brine shrimp fishermen 'optimistic' as yearly harvest begins. (Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News)

(Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Snowpack and water go hand-in-hand in Utah, especially on the topic of the Great Salt Lake.

Last year, the lake was seemingly brought back to life from its record low by a record snowpack. Water managers were hoping for another big year to help the lake make up more ground, but, so far, it hasn’t been that way.

According to official state data, as of Tuesday morning, the statewide snowpack had 4 inches of water in it.

Compared to historical averages, numbers that experts consider normal, it is nearly 31% below average.

Measurements gathered on Tuesday morning reported 3.9 inches of water in the snowpack, which would have made the shortage about 33%.

Great Salt Lake hit its record low in the fall of 2022.

Later, it rose about 5.5 feet from last year’s record snowpack and spring runoff.

It has since fallen about a foot and a half to 4,192.5 feet above sea level, putting it about five and a half feet shy of its optimal healthy level of 4,198 feet above sea level. Some experts also consider the lake’s healthy range to be between 4,196 and 4,200 feet above sea level.

What’s the outlook for Great Salt Lake?

Great Salt Lake Deputy Commissioner Tim Davis told KSL NewsRadio that ideally, for the lake to not take another step back, all it needs is an average snowpack in the mountains. But, even if that doesn’t happen, he said, there are still things people can do to help get more upstream water to the lake.

“If the lake moves in the wrong direction this summer, we’re all going to need to do everything we can to conserve and shepherd that water to the lake. As much water as we can,” Davis said. 

Along with conservation, Davis said the Utah Legislature and other water managers are still working to come up with other solutions to preserve more of the Great Salt Lake’s upstream water and to get it to where it needs to go.

Plus, there are still three months until snowpack peaks for the year, meaning there is time for Mother Nature to turn things around.

“Hopefully this winter Mother Nature gives us a leg up, but if not … and even if she does, we still need to get more water to the lake to get it back to a healthy level,” said Davis. 

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Great Salt Lake managers holding out hope following slow start to winter snowfall