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Great Salt Lake, Shrinking From Water Diversions for New Development, Spreads Dust Around Utah
Brian Maffly shares news of new research led by Greg Carling, professor of Geology at Brigham Young University, quantifying the effects of a shrinking, drying Great Salt Lake.
Upwind from northern Utah’s urban centers is a network of lakebeds, dried-up remnants of a vast prehistoric inland sea that dominated the region when the climate was much wetter and cooler that it is today.
Now, as western Utah becomes even drier — from drought, water diversions and climate change — these playas have become a major source of dust settling on Wasatch Front cities and their mountain water sources, according to new research conducted by Brigham Young University geologists.
According to the study, 90 percent of the dust comes from the exposed beds of the Great Salk Lake, Sevier Lake, and other valleys. That dust, large particulate matter PM10, causes problems for snowpack and water supply in the Wasatch Front region. An emerging field of research is connecting land use practices and water diversions to the effects of dust on water supply. The picture that has emerged is "alarming," explains Maffly.