4,200 Project plans to preserve Great Salt Lake

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The Great Salt Lake has a fascinating history and contributes significantly to Utah’s air quality, economy and wildlife population.

Yet in December 2022, the Great Salt Lake reached a record low of 4,188 feet above sea level. To reverse this troubling trend, the Utah Rivers Council released its plan to preserve the Great Salt Lake, called the 4,200 Project. This refers to the lake’s healthy level of 4,200 feet above sea level.

Professor Greg Carling, a BYU environmental geology and hydrology research professor, had plenty to say about how the Great Salt Lake benefits Utah.

“The Great Salt Lake is this keystone ecosystem that millions of migratory birds will use the lake every year. So it’s like this major stopover point for birds traveling from South America up to Alaska,” Carling said.

Carling also said companies worldwide use brine shrimp harvested from the lake as fish food. That, and several other industries revolving around the lake, are important for the economy.

Carling said the lake’s significant water level decrease is partly because of factors beyond human control, such as precipitation and climate. Yet at least half of the decrease is a result of water diversions, he said.

“We divert water out of fresh water, out of rivers. We use that for drinking water for agriculture, for industry and every drop we take out of the rivers is a drop that won’t make it to Great Salt Lake,” Carling said.

The 4,200 Project offers several solutions to raise the levels of the lake, including eliminating secondary water waste, reducing the diversion of water from the lake and redirecting unused agricultural water to the lake.

To donate or get involved in the project, visit 4200project.org.

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