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Utah's Great Salt Lake may reach historic low soon

  • Utah's Great Salt Lake may reach historic low soon
    Decreasing water levels in the southern arm of the Great Salt Lake expose microbialite communities that are normally underwater. Credit: Hannah McIlwain, USGS

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The southern portion of the Great Salt Lake is just a couple inches above the historic low measurement taken in 1963, according to U.S. Geological Survey streamgage information collected at the SaltAir gauge location.  

“Based on current trends and historical data, we anticipate water levels will continue to decline over the next several months,” said USGS Utah Water Science Center Data Chief Ryan Rowland. “This information is critical in helping resource managers make informed decisions on Great Salt Lake resources. You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” 

Wind events can cause temporary changes in lake levels. Therefore, the USGS emphasizes that average daily values provide a more representative measurement. The SaltAir gauge has a current average daily value just 2.4 inches, or 0.2 feet, above its historic low. The USGS maintains a record of Great Salt Lake elevations dating back to 1847. 

Streamflow levels across the state are also being impacted by extreme drought conditions. Currently, 67% (80 of 120) of streamgages with at least 20 years of record are reporting below-normal flows.

Current extreme drought conditions, water levels, weather and flood forecasts are available via the USGS National Water Dashboard on your computer, smartphone or other mobile device. This tool provides critical information to decision-makers, emergency managers and the public during flood and drought events, informing decisions that can help protect lives and property.

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