GREAT SALT LAKE

Stifling drought to take its toll on Great Salt Lake, lawns, wildlife and why recent rains won’t change that

May 10, 2022, 8:13 PM
FILE: The receding waters of The Great Salt Lake are easy to see from Chopper 5. (KSL TV)...
FILE: The receding waters of The Great Salt Lake are easy to see from Chopper 5. (KSL TV)
(KSL TV)

This article is published through the Great Salt Lake Collaborative, a solutions journalism initiative that partners news, education, and media organizations to help inform people about the plight of the Great Salt Lake—and what can be done to make a difference before it is too late. Read all of our stories at greatsaltlakenews.org

SALT LAKE CITY — Parts of Utah saw wet weather in recent days, but it wasn’t enough to dampen the state’s crippling drought.

Water managers are bracing for another year of shortages, with the lack of moisture expected to impact wildlife populations and drop the Great Salt Lake to a record low for a second year in a row.

The U.S. Drought Monitor shows nearly all of the state in severe or extreme drought. Last month, Gov. Spencer Cox placed the state under an emergency due to low snowpack and unprecedented dry conditions.

“Our lands are tinder dry,” Brian Steed, executive director of the Department of Natural Resources, said in a news release Thursday.

Steed added that May and June will likely be hotter and drier than normal, with all signs pointing to “a challenging wildfire season.”

All of Salt Lake County is in severe drought or worse, with the eastern edge of the county that includes the Wasatch Mountains in extreme drought. The County Council is considering a plan to transform 132 county-owned park strips and parking lot islands from turf to water-wise plants to save 5 million gallons of water a year.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall and the Department of Public Utilities announced April 12 that Utah’s capital would start the irrigating season under Stage 2 of its five-stage Water Shortage Contingency Plan. Customers are encouraged to reduce their watering by 5%.

Snowpack in the Jordan and Provo river basins currently sits at 59% of normal, according to the latest Utah Water Supply Outlook report from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, although precipitation for the water year to date is close to normal at 95%.

Utah’s river basins will need several years of above-average conditions for reservoirs to fill, however. Water storage across the state sits at 58% of capacity, down 10% from this time last year, the NRCS reports. Statewide snow-water equivalent, or the amount of water that will melt out of the snowpack, was at 66% of normal as of May 1.

“April precipitation was kind to northern Utah,” the report notes, “but did not deliver for the southern portion of the state.”

The Bear and Weber river basins saw close to normal rain and snowfall last month, but several basins in the southern part of the state had less than 50% of normal conditions.

Even with April’s storms, the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District hasn’t managed to add much storage to its reservoirs and will reduce the amount of water delivered to customers this season. The district plans to buy 14,000 acre-feet from Deer Creek and another 5,000 acre-feet of Echo water shares on the Provo River to shore up supplies, according to a news release from the Division of Water Resources.

Water also has not managed to reach the Great Salt Lake. Last July, the lake’s elevation dipped to 4,191.3 feet above sea level, falling below a previous record low set in 1963. The lake ultimately sank to 4,190.2 feet in October, which is its current lowest point in recorded history. The lake sits at 4,191.1 feet right now, and water managers expect it to drop an additional 2 feet over the summer, setting a new record.

In Ogden, Mayor Mike Caldwell signed a declaration of severe water shortage Wednesday with several outdoor watering guidelines that are in effect until Nov. 1. Under the declaration, residents should wait to water turf until it shows visible signs of stress and irrigate only twice a week.

The mayor further encouraged residents to reduce their water consumption by 10% this season, while commercial water customers should develop plans to reduce watering by 15%.

Impacts from the drought are also taking a toll on wildlife. There are about 100,000 fewer deer across Utah than the target population of 400,000, according to the Division of Wildlife Resources. As such, the Utah Wildlife Board voted late last month to issue fewer general season deer hunting permits.

“We’ve had several years of drought and are still facing ongoing extreme drought conditions statewide, which has a significant impact on the survival rates of deer,” state big game coordinator Covy Jones said in a news release.

Jones added that, like water across the state, demand for deer hunting is outpacing supply.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Great Salt Lake

(KSL-TV)...
KSL TV

Sunday Edition: House Speaker Vote, GSL Bills, Utah’s New State Flag

This week on Sunday Edition, we look at the new congress in Washington, D.C. and the divided House Republicans who struggled for days to elect a new House speaker, Utah lawmakers to take bold action to save the Great Salt Lake, and tate lawmakers will have the final vote on the new design for the new state flag.
18 hours ago
Tooele sunrise...
Carter Williams, KSL.com

Snow advisories could bring up to 14 inches of snow Friday night

The snow is back, yet again. The National Weather Service issued a winter weather advisory for the Wasatch Mountains, where 6 to 14 inches or more of snow is forecast between Friday and Saturday. It remains in effect through late Saturday afternoon.
6 days ago
(L-R) Zach Frankel, Sen. Nate Blouin, Rep. Joel Briscoe on Jan. 25, 2023. (KSL TV)...
Jed Boal

Lawmakers unveil a pair of bills aimed at restoring the Great Salt Lake

Two Utah lawmakers unveiled a pair of bills aimed at protecting and restoring an optimal water level in the Great Salt Lake. One bill would establish a restoration level for the lake, and the other would raise money to continue the work. 
8 days ago
The tour looks at a crystal formation that would normally be covered by the Great Salt Lake waters....
Alex Cabrero

Great Salt Lake tour showcases the shrinking lake and what is being uncovered

Tours of the shrinking Great Salt Lake uncover hidden crystal formations, shipwrecks, and unknown secrets that were lost to time.
19 days ago
Great Salt Lake...
Alex Cabrero

Recent storms increase the Great Salt Lake’s water levels

In trying to save the Great Salt Lake, there is a long way to go. However, finally, there is a little bit of a reason to smile.
21 days ago
FILE: The receding waters of The Great Salt Lake are easy to see from Chopper 5. (KSL TV)...
Leia Larsen, The Salt Lake Tribune

Great Salt Lake set to vanish in 5 years, experts warn Utah lawmakers in dire report

Utah has months to reverse the lake's decline before it's too late, according to a dire report.
28 days ago

Sponsored Articles

vintage photo of lighting showroom featuring chandeliers, lamps, wall lights and mirrors...
Lighting Design

History of Lighting Design | Over 25 Years of Providing Utah With the Latest Trends and Styles

Read about the history of Lighting Design, a family-owned and operated business that paved the way for the lighting industry in Utah.
Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Stifling drought to take its toll on Great Salt Lake, lawns, wildlife and why recent rains won’t change that