The Great Salt Lake is the largest saltwater lake in the western hemisphere, and it is at threat of drying up in the next five years. Desert drought and excessive water use are to blame. Large farms consume millions of gallons of water every year, and Utah’s rainfall isn’t heavy enough to be sustainable. If no action is taken, there could be serious environmental and medical issues that Utah’s population is starting to feel the effect of. While air pollution is already a large problem in the Salt Lake Valley, a dried lakebed would cause terrible dust storms, furthering this issue. The lakebed has high levels of neurotoxins and carcinogens like mercury and arsenic. This toxic dust could be blown into the yards of innocent civilians looking to raise their families. Dust storms have become more common in recent years as there have been more than twelve in the last year, while just a decade ago there were none.
A dried-up lake would also mean the collapse of an entire ecosystem. With less water in the lake, salinity levels increase, and the water becomes too salty for even the brine shrimp, the lake’s only aquatic inhabitant. As one part of the food chain is eliminated, other species are put at risk as well– like the migrating birds that eat the shrimp on their journeys to warmer areas for the winter.
A dried lake could also mean severe economic downturn for the state as well. Ski resorts benefit from extra lake effect snow, meaning that they can stay open later into the spring (and some years even the summer). Brine shrimp fishing and salt mining also contribute to the economy, and the drying of the lake would only hurt them more.
This is not to say that there is no action being taken to fix this issue. Utah state legislature has been writing bills to combat the dry lake in many different ways. Someone even proposed that a pipeline be installed to fill the lake with water from the Pacific Ocean. While these bills can do a lot to help the lake, it will take much more than shorter showers to reverse years of drought and excessive water usage.