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Great Salt Lake nearing lowest level in history

Posted at 12:20 PM, Jul 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-09 12:19:54-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Reduced snowpacks and high temperatures have moved the Great Salt Lake closer to reaching its lowest water level in history.

READ: 98% of Utah under extreme or exceptional drought conditions

Officials say the lake currently sits just above 4,191.35, which is the previous low recorded in 1963.

"As the Great Salt Lake nears a new recorded historic low, it's a sobering reminder of the heavy impact this extreme drought is having on Utah as it has accelerated lake levels to this unprecedented point," said Gov. Spencer Cox.

However, the Utah Rivers Council, a non-profit that looks to protect Utah's watersheds, claims the lake has already reached a record low at 4190.8, a level refuted by state officials.

"Reports that the Great Salt Lake has dropped below its historic low elevation of 4,191.35 are premature," said Brian Steed, Director of Utah's Department of Natural Resources, who added that the lake is expected to set a record low in "the coming days."

Steed says conditions such as wind, inflow and evaporation can cause the lake's elevation to fluctuate, sometimes to extremes. The DNR records lake levels with daily averages instead of every 15 minutes, providing them with what they say is a more accurate reading.

The Utah Rivers Council says scientists believe increasing air temperatures will continue to reduce snowpacks, which will drop inflows to the lake up to 40% by 2080.

WATCH: Utah prepares for water shortages in ongoing drought emergency

The drought report issued by the Utah Department of Natural Resources shows that temperatures were 5.6 degrees Fahrenheit above average across the state last week, and that 98% of Utah is experiencing "extreme or "exceptional" drought conditions.

Along with the Great Salt Lake, 73% of the state's streams are below normal, with seven flowing at their lowest levels ever.

"As a state and as policy leaders, it’s necessary to continue our work together to find solutions that balance Utah’s growth and water needs with the importance of maintaining a healthy and sustainable Great Salt Lake," said Cox.