A recent piece in the New York Times sheds light on one of the most significant ecological events happening in the country, the drying up of the Great Salt Lake. The New York Times got it right in warning us how important the body of water is to our health and the economy. The good news is there are things each of us can do to manage our water better and improve the conditions for generations to come if we act now.
The Great Salt Lake is on the verge of a multibillion disaster if the current trajectory does not change. Projections estimate Salt Lake City water demand would exceed supply by the year 2040 and that number could be even sooner depending on growth. This slow detonating disaster has a cautionary tale to learn from with the history of Owens Lake, California. Owens Lake went dry due to poor management and booming demand in Los Angeles where the water feeding the lake was diverted, and the boom town surrounding the lake virtually disappeared due to dust pollution.
Now Los Angeles is paying billions of dollars to keep dust in the dry lake bed from developing into dust storms that harm the remaining residents. We cannot let Salt Lake City and the surrounding communities succumb to the same fate. Currently, the state of Utah is experiencing another record dry year and a megadrought plagues the Mountain West. Our soil moisture reached low levels not previously seen since soil moisture monitoring began in 2006, and low soil moisture impacts crops and sets conditions for more wildfires.
We acknowledge that water is our most precious and vital natural resource, especially when living in a desert climate. We know our efforts to manage and conserve water today will impact all aspects of our future including our potential for economic sustainability. If Utah is to continue its growth, each of us must change our water usage. This means the price of water is likely to go up as communities implement secondary water metering, water usage for agriculture will continue to change, and landscaping habits drastically shifted toward conservation. As the second driest state in the nation, it is time for an all-hands-on-deck approach to combat our water shortage.