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Great Salt Lake Advisory Council Activities

Great Salt Lake Enhancement Projects Database

On behalf of the State of Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands and Division of Water Resources and the Great Salt Lake Advisory Council, SWCA Environmental Consultants (SWCA) has developed a database of implementation projects that could benefit the Great Salt Lake (GSL). The Great Salt Lake Enhancement Projects (project) aims to gather information from a diverse range of stakeholders regarding proposed projects that could increase water delivery, improve or conserve GSL habitat, or provide other tangible benefits to the lake. The resulting list of projects will be used to identify funding mechanisms and opportunities for future collaboration. This includes projects surrounding the GSL and, where appropriate, those that extend into the Weber River, Bear River, and Jordan River watersheds. While several efforts are underway to develop long-term solutions to protect the GSL, numerous immediate projects could be implemented to maintain and improve lake levels and habitat in the short term. This project provides a master list of GSL projects that have been collected from over 60 GSL stakeholders.

Great Salt Lake Hydro Mapper

The Great Salt Lake Advisory Council is pleased to announce the new Great Salt Lake Hydro Mapper. Developed by USGS, the hydro mapper is an exciting new tool that will provide viewers with up-to-date information on all things Great Salt Lake. Funded by the Great Salt Lake Advisory Council in 2021, the innovative website provides real-time lake surface elevations, surface water inflows and salinity levels. The tool also provides information on hydrology-related data in the watershed and ties current lake level elevations to the GSL Comprehensive Management Plan Elevation Matrix.

Recommendations to Ensure Adequate Water Flows to Great Salt Lake and Its Wetlands

In an effort to address the impacts of declining Great Salt Lake levels, the Utah Legislature passed, and Governor Gary Herbert signed, HCR10 – “Concurrent Resolution to Address Declining Water Levels of the Great Salt Lake”, which encouraged the Utah Departments of Natural Resources and Environmental Quality to engage with a diverse group of stakeholders to consider and make recommendations on how to ensure adequate water flows to the lake. The resulting report identified 9 strategic opportunities centered on key focus areas including on the need to educate and engage stakeholders; improve information and decision-making; optimize agricultural water use; optimize municipal and industrial water use, and connect water and land use planning; refine legal and policy options that support protecting water supplies to the lake.

Great Salt Lake and Water Reuse Study

This report examines the impact of water reuse on Great Salt Lake. Potential reuse quantities at eleven major wastewater treatment facilities along the Wasatch Front were evaluated. The study concluded that the possible depletion to Great Salt Lake from water reuse could range from 12-20 inches in lake level.

Conservation Impacts Study

To inform future water resource planning decisions that may affect Great Salt Lake, the Conservation Impact Study examines the potential impacts of water conservation on water resource planning and develops an action plan of additional studies needed to assist policy makers in more completely understanding the role of conservation in future water resource planning. This evaluation focuses on four primary water providers in northern Utah: Bear River Water Conservancy District (WCD), Cache Water District, Jordan Valley WCD, and Weber Basin WCD. The study finds that if additional water conservation efforts can significantly decrease water use, there is the potential to further delay, reduce the magnitude, or perhaps even eliminate the need for future large water development projects, such as the currently defined Bear River Development project.

Water Strategies for Great Salt Lake

Building upon the work completed in 2017 to compile potential strategies to address declining lake levels, GSLAC commission Clyde Snow & Sessions and Jacobs Engineering, Inc. to evaluate priority strategies thought to have a high potential to improve water management and increase water deliveries to Great Salt Lake. GSLAC identified 12 priority strategies are organized as Foundational, Operational, and Tactical in nature. Foundational Strategies are intended to remove legal constraints to delivering water to Great Salt Lake. The Operational Strategies serve to inform decision and policy makers, water users, and managers. Tactical Strategies serve to incentivize water users to protect, conserve, and make available water that could be used for deliveries to Great Salt Lake. The Report is intended to provide specific useful information on each strategy so the water user community can choose where to spend their resources in achieving the overarching goal of maintaining or increasing Great Salt Lake levels.

Water for Great Salt Lake

In response to an observed long-term decline in Great Salt Lake water levels, in 2017, GSLAC, in cooperation with SWCA Environmental Consultants, compiled a list of potential strategies to increase or maintain water delivery to Great Salt Lake. Strategies were solicited and submitted anonymously or without attribution. This document is intended to facilitate a discussion of potential strategies to maintain or increase the surface elevation of Great Salt Lake. The list is not exhaustive, but reflects an attempt to compile a wide range of strategic options. No ranking or prioritization was completed as part of the compilation process. Inclusion in this document does not constitute an endorsement of any individual strategy by GSLAC or its members. These strategies are ongoing topics of discussion for GSLAC.

Great Salt Lake Integrated Model

Model development and updates

The Great Salt Lake Integrated Model (GSLIM), commissioned by GSLAC and developed in conjunction with state resource management agencies, was built to aid resource managers and policymakers in understanding how climate, population, land use, and water use in the GSL watershed might impact the GSL ecosystem and its uses. GSLIM, initially completed in 2017, was updated and enhanced by Jacobs through an interactive process including Utah state agency staff, GSLAC members, and stakeholder feedback with an updated version completed in 2019. The core outputs from GSLIM include forecasts of GSL lake elevation and salinity based on varying characteristics of the GSL watershed.

Scenario evaluations

To enhance the understanding of the sensitivity of GSL’s water levels and salinity to potential changes in its watershed, GSLAC commissioned a study to use GSLIM to forecast lake conditions under several possible future scenarios combining different population, climate, and water use patterns. These effects are characterized in the study’s executive summary and final report developed and written by Jacobs.

Consequences of Declining Water Levels

To better understand the implications that could result from continued declining water levels at Great Salt Lake, the Great Salt Lake Advisory Council commissioned two reports:

The first report, “Consequences of Drying Lakes Around the World,” examines eight lakes with similar characteristics to Great Salt Lake. It found that drying lakes result in billions of dollars of economic losses, require extensive mitigation efforts and pose severe threats to human health and the environment.

The second report “Assessment of Potential Costs of Declining Water Levels in Great Salt Lake,” synthesizes information from scientific literature, agency reports, informational interviews, and other sources to detail how and to what extent costs could occur at sustained lower lake levels.

Great Salt Lake Health and Economic Significance

During 2011, the Great Salt Lake Advisory Council commissioned two reports to provide information that will aide the council in advising the Utah administrative and legislative bodies on the sustainable use, protection, and development of the Great Salt Lake.

The two major reports and the name of the contractor that led the effort were:

  1. Definition and Assessment of Great Salt Lake Health led by SWCA Environmental Consultants and Applied Conservation
  2. Economic Significance of the Great Salt Lake to the State of Utah led by Bioeconomics Inc.

Final Reports were submitted to the Council at the January, 2012 Work Meetings. Please click on the links below to view the fact sheets and final reports:

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