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Utah’s Impending Disaster

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The Great Salt Lake is simply drying up due to the terrible management of water in the West and this is a very real environmental disaster in the making.

Days before Utah lawmakers are set to convene, dozens of researchers are calling on them to take bold action and save the Great Salt Lake before it withers away.

An emergency briefing released Thursday warns of “unprecedented” danger to Utah’s public health, environment and economy if the lake does not receive a “dramatic” influx of water by 2024. The lake has already hit record-low elevations for two years in a row, exposing 60% of its lakebed which continues to dry into a toxic source of dust pollution. Excessive water use in the Great Salt Lake’s basin means the lake is set to disappear in the next five years, the report warns.

“The decisions we make in the coming few months will affect our community and ecosystems across the hemisphere,” said Ben Abbott, a professor of Aquatic Ecology at Brigham Young University and lead author of the briefing, in a news release.

Scientists and conservationists with Westminster College, Friends of Great Salt Lake, the University of Alberta, Utah State University, Wasatch High School, Utah Valley University, Great Salt Lake Audubon and more co-authored the study.

The Utah Legislature took some of its biggest conservation measures to date last session in an effort to save the Great Salt Lake. They took a helicopter tour of its massive exposed lakebed and approved a $40 million trust to secure water rights and improve habitat for the lake. They funneled millions toward mandatory secondary water metering. They revised the state’s pioneer-era water laws to allow farmers to lease their water rights and use them to benefit environmental interests like the Great Salt Lake.

In recent months, Gov. Spencer Cox closed the lake’s watershed to new water rights. His latest budget proposal calls for $132.9 million to help the lake specifically, along with another $217.9 million for statewide water conservation.

Color me extremely skeptical that Utah is going to manage this properly. The entire justification for western settlement was that water could be controlled and used effectively. That began with the Mormons in the 1840s and spread across the region. It’s gotten utterly out of control. Various versions of this disaster are going to become common throughout the region. I wouldn’t be confident for a Democratic-run state to manage this, but Utah? The entire state is based on a frontier settler mentality that nature is under the control of man and all natural resources exist production. Good luck managing the Great Salt Lake with that ideology.

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