Save Our Great Salt Lake!
The Utah Legislature
The Great Salt Lake is drying up and we need to act now. We’re gathering signatures to put pressure on the Utah legislature and demand that the lake’s water and precious ecosystem are protected. If we don’t act, the lake will become a serious public health hazard and threaten the future of life in Utah.
Why is this important?
In 2021, with 100% of the state of Utah experiencing drought, the water levels of the Great Salt Lake reached historic lows. Although most residents don't consider having a relationship with the lake, it a precious collective resource that benefits our economy, our environment and our ecology. The shrinking lake is already having a devastating impact on our health by exposing millions of Utahns to toxic dust storms. Protecting the lake is a matter of preserving our health and the future of livability in Utah.
A drying Great Salt Lake is catastrophic for Utah's air. The lake has been collecting decades worth of agricultural pesticides, industry chemicals, and toxic arsenic from Utah's soils. When the wind blows, it kicks up the dust from the dried up lakebed and puts millions of Utahns at risk of developing severe health problems. The lake is currently on track to become one of the larger dust emission sources in North America, threatening not only our health, but our economy and our state's future.
The Great Salt Lake is an important driver our state's economy, bringing in $1.3 billion and over 7,700 jobs each year. The lake's economy provides 14% of the world's magnesium, produces 40% of the worlds brine shrimp eggs (essential for aquaculture), and leads the Western Hemisphere in production of sulfate of potash (a premium fertilizer). A GSLAC study revised in 2019 found that “the potential costs of a drying Great Salt Lake could be as much as $1.69 billion to $2.17 billion per year and over 6,500 job losses.”
The Great Salt Lake is also an important ecosystem for millions of brine shrimp and migratory birds. 10 million birds visit the Great Salt Lake annually as a crucial breeding ground and stopover during migration. The future of these species is intimately tied to the future of the lake. Additionally, the lake supports 80% of Utah's valuable wetlands.
Three-quarters of the people in Utah live in Great Salt Lake’s watershed. We have a relationship with the lake and, therefore, a responsibility to care for it. This lake is not just “stinky.” It is special and provides our state with immense resources and ecosystem services. Utah is set to double in population in the coming decades and we have to make dramatic changes now to support this growth. The Great Salt Lake has never been under greater threat, and unless we take serious action to demand that our officials protect the lake, our state's future is at risk.
Why is this happening?
The Great Salt Lake has lost half of its water due to our consumption and water levels are down by 11 feet. The primary drivers of this water loss include worsening drought; water diversion from the Bear River (the lake's largest water source) to agriculture, cities, and towns; an absence of water conservation incentives at both the municipal and industry level; an artificially low price of water, perpetuated by industry lobbyists and hidden property taxes; and outdated water laws that fail to protect the lake.
We've known for decades about the lake's vulnerability and still our government has failed to act in any meaningful way. We must demand that our government recognizes the inherent value of the Great Salt Lake ecosystem and enacts policy to protect it.
What can you do?
Sign this petition, share with friends, coworkers & family, and follow us on Instagram to stay up to date with the best ways to support this work.
We need your help to advocate for meaningful policy (see our demands below) to protect the Great Salt Lake and educate our community about the dangers of a drying lake. You can start by writing your public officials and telling them you want to preserve the Great Salt Lake!
Make a commitment to conserve water. Utah is the highest municipal water user in the country and personal conservation goes a long way.
“Great Salt Lake does not have its own water right. It’s not respected as a body of water that needs to be filled. If we can’t get a water right for the Great Salt Lake and we can’t protect a certain level of water in the lake, that ecosystem will collapse, and that will have devastating impacts for the millions of humans that live here.” -Bonnie Baxter, Director of the Great Salt Lake Institute at Westminster College
• Build on, prioritize, and fund HCR-10 - The Utah Legislature needs to fully fund
HCR-10, which was a bill passed in the 2019 legislative session. HCR10 provided recommendations on how to mitigate declining lake levels. Unfortunately, the bill doesn't go far enough and it did not provide any direct legislative action. It provides a tool that roadmaps future studies and projects, but we must push the legislature to go further and provide funding to support the focus areas outlined by the bill. • Create a right to conserve water for Great Salt Lake
Western water law was established when water was seen as utilitarian and to this day, reflects 19th-century attitudes. The current laws require water to be put to beneficial use in order to retain water rights - a "use it or lose it" model. This was useful in an earlier era but is counterproductive today when preserving ecosystems is important to both the economy and the environment. Because water in the GSL is not potable, it’s considered under the law to be inefficient. In order to protect the lake, we need to change this designation to reflect our understanding that ecosystems are inherently valuable.
• Reduce water diversion to the lake by 30%
A study from Utah State University says that to maintain lake levels, diverting water from rivers that flow into it would have to decrease by 30%. But for the state with the nation’s fastest-growing population, addressing the problem will require a major shift in how water is allocated and perceptions of the lake.
• Oppose the Bear River Development Project
Utah’s proposal to divert the Bear River upstream of the Great Salt Lake would dry up tens of thousands of acres of the West's largest remaining wetland ecosystem and cost taxpayers billions of dollars.
• Require developers to report water usage
Rapid growth is putting immense pressure on our state’s water supply. With Utah's population set to double in the coming decades, we must consider the sustainability of our watershed and impose water restrictions on new developments. We demand that the state require developers to present a long-range plan for where they will source water for any proposed development. We must also require developers to meter and report water use, and limit future new developments that don't meet a critical housing need.
• Enforce mandatory water metering
Water metering is a simple and immediate way to monitor our states consumption and encourage conservation. Studies show that when people are aware of how much water they use, we naturally reduce our consumption. Transparency and data will help us conserve water. Awareness of consumption levels is a big first step towards water conservation and would provide useful data to guide future policy.
• Put a tax on agricultural exports to make that a less desirable alternative.
Currently, roughly 80% of Utah's water is used for agriculture, with the majority going towards alfalfa and cattle that are then sold on the global market. We're essentially exporting our precious water supply out of the country and allowing unchecked water consumption for animal feed when we need to be prioritizing crops that feed our growing population. Raising cattle is much less efficient than growing fruits and vegetables.
• Eliminate hidden property taxes paid to water districts and adjust water pricing to reflect the true cost
Utah has the highest per-person municipal water use in America because we have the nation's cheapest water. In effect, we’re encouraging people to waste water by offering it at a very low rate which makes no sense for a growing, drought-ridden state. The price of water is kept artificially low by hidden property taxes that Utahns pay to our water districts. We demand the removal of these property taxes and a price adjustment to reflect the true cost of water in order to encourage conservation among municipal users.
“It’s a never-ending battle, but I feel we’re moving in a positive direction. If we act in a timely way with a collective will, we can avert horrific results for people, for wildlife and for the world. Utah can still offer a success story.” -Lynn de Freitas, the Executive Director of FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake (FOGSL)
“The eyes of the future are looking back at us, and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time.” -Terry Tempest Williams
The Utah Legislature
From: [Your Name]
We are facing a crisis situation. We demand that the legislature prioritize getting water to the Great Salt Lake and water conservation at the upcoming legislative session. We need legislation with action, not just lip service.