The Great Salt Lake provides a unique ecosystem found nowhere else in the United States. It is the largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere, and one of a handful of terminal lakes in the world. The lake boasts a rich ecosystem that supports a wide range of terrestrial and aquatic life and serves as critical habitat for resident and migratory birds.
The ecological diversity of 1,700-square-mile lake, from its highly saline North Arm to its freshwater Farmington Bay, provides food for the more than 7.5 million birds who stop there during their migration along the Pacific Flyway or make the lake their home. The lake also provides enormous economic benefit to the state, contributing over $1 billion a year to the economy from lake-based industrial and recreational activities.
The lake’s unique qualities create opportunities and challenges to safeguarding its ecological systems and resources. The chemical and biological conditions found in the Great Salt Lake complicate the development and implementation of appropriate water-quality criteria. In addition, water diversions, lower lake levels, and potential changes to the lake’s salinity place additional pressures on the lake’s aquatic and avian life.
The Division of Water Quality developed the Great Salt Lake Water Quality Strategy to address this need for lake-specific data and conditions. The Strategy provides the framework for monitoring water quality, developing water quality standards, and identifying lake-specific management policies that protect the lake’s beneficial uses.