UTAH DROUGHT

Great Salt Lake level reaches seven-year high

May 8, 2024, 3:00 PM | Updated: May 15, 2024, 12:25 pm

great salt lake shown, lithium in the lake is attracting companies...

Only about a year and a half removed from hitting its lowest level in recorded history, the Great Salt Lake has reached its highest level since 2017.(Adam Small/KSL NewsRadio)

(Adam Small/KSL NewsRadio)

Editor’s note: Changes were made to reflect that Tim Davis is from the Great Salt Lake Commissioner’s Office, not the Department of Natural Resources. 

SALT LAKE CITY — Only about a year and a half removed from hitting its lowest level in recorded history, the Great Salt Lake has reached its highest level since 2017.

The lake now sits at 4,195.1 feet above sea level — more than 6.5 feet higher than its all-time historic low of 4,188.5 feet registered in late 2022.

The Utah Legislature created the Office of the Great Salt Lake Commissioner in 2023 after the lake hit rock bottom.

When asked how they feel about how far the lake has come in less than two years, Great Salt Lake Deputy Commissioner Tim Davis said with a chuckle, “Being able to sleep is a good thing.”

Cautious optimism from Great Salt Lake officials

Davis told KSL NewsRadio their office is a lot more optimistic about Great Salt Lake now. But he said work to save the largest saline lake in the Western Hemisphere is far from over.

“It just buys us time,” Davis said. “What we need to do is not take our foot off the pedal.”

The lake is still three feet short of its target healthy level of 4,198 feet.

It’s also one foot short of entering its healthy range. That range is between 4,196 to 4,200 feet, Utah Department of Natural Resources Executive Director Joel Ferry previously told KSL NewsRadio.

While Ferry said the lake’s salinity levels are already in good shape, Great Salt Lake still needs more water to cover much of the exposed toxic lakebed.

What happens next?

Davis attributed the remarkable rebound of Great Salt Lake to two great winters in a row. But Utahns played a part too, he said, by being willing to conserve water and maintaining awareness of the problem.

Davis said their focus at the commissioner’s office now shifts to figuring out two key things: how much water the Great Salt Lake needs every year to sustain a healthy level, and the best way to get that water to the lake.

“What we need to do is ensure that we’ve got enough water going to the lake in a way that balances water use across the Great Salt Lake Basin over time,” Davis said.

Great Salt Lake is expected to take in more water over the next several weeks, with an average of more than 10 inches of water still sitting in Utah’s current snowpack.

“I think we should be very happy, we should be relieved … [but] there’s a lot more work that we need to do,” Davis said.

We want to hear from you.

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

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Great Salt Lake level reaches seven-year high