Invasive phragmites are needlessly sucking water out of Great Salt Lake

Feb 2, 2024, 3:44 PM | Updated: 5:28 pm

Sign showcasing information about the Great Sale Lake Shorelands preserve....

FILE - The Shorelines Preserve at the Great Salt Lake (KSL TV)


Editor’s note: 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.

SALT LAKE CITY — As Utah lawmakers, advocates, state agencies and researchers continue to look for answers to help the Great Salt Lake, one funding request aims to accelerate the effectiveness of an invasive weed eradication program.

To date, the state Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands has removed 55,000 acres of phragmites, an invasive reed-style plant that dominates the shores of the Great Salt Lake and its upland areas. Ben Stireman, deputy director of the division, noted that while the $500,000 being requested is not in Utah Gov. Spencer Cox’s budget, phragmites are a constant problem for the agency and its partners.

“In 2016, there was a study that showed that phragmites coverage at that date used about 71,000 acre-feet of water and while you know native vegetation also uses water, it’s considerably less water,” he said. Stireman said it’s estimated the state could save tens of thousands of acre-feet of water by removing the invasive plant and replacing it with native vegetation.

Rep. Doug Owens, D-Millcreek, told members of the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environmental Quality Appropriations Subcommittee Thursday the money would serve as a rainy day fund of sorts to allow for the optimal time for removal — when the plants have sucked up the water, are inundated and therefore prime for removal.

“Not only do each of those phragmites plants (act like) a straw sucking water out of that lake, but also they are changing the topography and blocking the inflow of freshwater and backing it up where it evaporates even more,” he said. “And there’s no intervening user to divert that water.”

Owens said removing the phragmites might be the “low hanging fruit” behind efforts to save the Great Salt Lake, but he stressed removal of the invasive species is vital for the health of the lake’s ecosystem and waterfowl that come to nest, forage and visit.

KSL 5 TV Live

Great Salt Lake

This week, the Larry H. and Gail Miller Foundation announced a $2.2 million donation to water conse...

Karah Brackin

Miller family to donate $2.2 million in water conservation efforts in Utah

This week, the Larry H. and Gail Miller Foundation announced a $2.2 million donation to water conservation efforts in Utah.

2 days ago

Utah Lake water release...

Alex Cabrero

Utah Lake release sends 300 million gallons of water a day into the Great Salt Lake

The Utah Lake control gates in Saratoga Springs opened Thursday morning to release water into the Great Salt Lake.

22 days ago

(Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)
Dust lingers after OHVs drove by in West Shores, Calif., on Friday, D...

Saige Miller, KUER

Lakebed dust is a worry in Utah. For California’s Salton Sea, it’s a full-blown problem

Like the Great Salt Lake, there are toxins in the sediment of an exposed lake bed in California.

22 days ago

Great Salt Lake bed...

Mike Anderson

Dust from Great Salt Lake helps algal blooms thrive, study finds

A new study is putting a large part of the blame for algal blooms on blowing dust.

24 days ago

A sail boat on the Great Salt Lake...

Carter WIlliams,

Should the Great Salt Lake be considered a person? Group says yes, Utah bill says no

A bill passed the senate which prohibits legislation from giving extra rights to the Great Salt Lake.

1 month ago

Hundreds of people are calling on the legislature to take bolder steps to protect the Great Salt La...

Brianna Chavez

Hundreds rally, calling on legislature to ‘Save our Great Salt Lake’

Hundreds of people are calling on the legislature to take bolder steps to protect the Great Salt Lake.

1 month ago

Sponsored Articles

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

Invasive phragmites are needlessly sucking water out of Great Salt Lake