Utah’s Great Salt Lake Dropped to a Record Low

Pink water washes over a salt crust on May 4, 2021, along the receding edge of the Great Salt Lake.

Pink water washes over a salt crust on May 4, 2021, along the receding edge of the Great Salt Lake.
Photo: Rick Bowmer (AP)

The Great Salt Lake in Utah, the biggest salt lake in the western hemisphere, is plunging to historic low levels as the region suffers through a vast and relentless megadrought.

Late last month, data collected by the U.S. Geological Survey showed the lake levels at 4,191.2 feet (1,277.5 meters)—a new historic low for the lake, according to the Utah Rivers Council, a nonprofit that keeps tabs on the lake. The Great Salt Lake takes up around 1,700 square miles (4,402 square kilometers), an area around the size of Delaware. But that are could continue to shrink dramatically in the coming months.

The low has been a long time coming and isn’t necessarily totally due to climate change. No, instead it’s also a combination of other human activities. A 2017 study showed that human overuse of the freshwater streams and rivers that feed into the lake have helped shrink the Great Salt Lake to half its original volume, first measured in 1847.

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