Great Salt Lake’s demise spurs water emergency for Utah

E and E News Greenwire —

Utah’s iconic Great Salt Lake, long neglected by regulators, is collapsing due to a historic drought and climate change.

And, in a cruel twist, the demise of the lake — which shriveled to a record low level in July — may threaten Utah’s posh ski towns and even the state’s water supply.

At issue: the “lake effect.”

The sprawling Great Salt Lake doesn’t freeze in the winter due to its high salt content, so when some storms blow in, they collect the lake’s moisture, strengthen, then deliver extra snow to the Wasatch Mountains.

That snow is the lifeblood of ski towns like Alta and Snowbird, but it also contributes to water supply. Utah gets 95 percent of its water from snowpack.

Scientists say it’s unclear just how much the lake effect boosts the snowpack, but current research suggests it’s 5 to 8 percent.

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