Drying Great Salt Lake

The Great Salt Lake is another evaporating lake making headlines along with it Lake Mead and Lake Powell due to low water level. According to a report from Brigham Young Universityunless recovery measures are put in place billions of gallons water, the lake could become a bowl of toxic dust within the next five years.

Drying lakes can have catastrophic consequences for the planet and the people and animals that live there. Let’s look at why lakes are important and what happens when lakes dry up.

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Lakes are a vital ecosystem

Lakes are essential for many species of fish, frogs, aquatic plants, insects, and migratory birds—providing food, shelter, and breeding habitat. Non-aquatic animals such as deer, foxes, wolves, bears, moose and many others use them for drinking water, swimming and as a way to cool off.

The Great Salt Lake also helps prevent toxic particulates from entering the atmosphere. According to BYU report, the bed of the Great Salt Lake contains pollutants such as arsenic, mercury and lead that could enter the atmosphere if the lake dries up. These pollutants can cause reproductive problems, cardiovascular damage, cancer and cognitive impairment.

Although lakes provide habitat for many plants and animals, they are also a vital part of the Water Cycle. They can help filter and store water and help prevent flooding. Large lakes can even form, such as the Great Lakes of North America microclimates. In the summer, lakes can help keep surrounding areas cooler. This effect can extend growing seasons and protect against frost that can kill crops.

Lakes are an important source

(Credit: Tish1/Shutterstock)

According to Nature conservationregarding 70 percent of the planet’s withdrawn freshwater is used in agriculture annually – some of which comes from lakes. Part of the reason the Great Salt Lake is declining so quickly is because farm use and irrigation.

Besides helping to provide our food, lakes provide water and storage for our drinking water. The Great Lakes Region provides drinking water for approximately eight states and several parts of Canada. Manufactured lakes—or reservoirs—such as Lake Mead provide drinking water for populated areas such as Las Vegas, Nevada, six other countries and parts of Mexico.

Water from Lake Mead is also used for agriculture and as part of Hoover Dam which provides hydroelectric power to parts of Nevada, Arizona, and California.

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Lakes are a vital economic resource

(Credit: ehrlif/Shutterstock)

The Great Salt Lake, according to BYU report, provides $2.5 billion in economic activity each year. Without the lake, the area could lose between $1.7 billion and $2.2 billion and 6,600 jobs.

Lakes are an excellent source of recreation. From fishing to boating to swimming, many people use the lakes to relax and have fun. This was stated in a 2019 Home Office report Lake Mead as a recreation area generated $336 million after seeing more than 7.6 million visitors in 2018. Those visitors helped provide nearly 4,000 jobs and millions of dollars to the surrounding communities.

In addition to recreation, lakes are also used as communication networks and shipping lanes for moving economic goods. The Great Lakes region is responsible for more than 50 percent of all trade between the United States and Canada, representing over 200 million tons of goods traded annually and gross domestic profit of $6 trillion. To say that lakes are important is an understatement.

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