The Great Salt Lake has hit a new historic low for the second time in less than a year, a dire milestone as the US west continues to weather a historic megadrought.
Die Utah department of natural resources said in a news release on Monday that the Great Salt Lake dipped over the weekend to 4,190.1ft (1,277.1 meters).
That is lower than the previous historic low set in October, which at the time matched a 170-year record low. Lake levels are expected to keep dropping until fall or winter, the agency said, as conditions exacerbated by the climate crisis continue to put a strain on water levels.
The giant lake near Salt Lake City is the largest natural lake west of the Mississippi. Its dwindling water levels have put millions of migrating birds at risk and threaten a lake-based economy that is worth an estimated $1.3bn in mineral extraction, brine shrimp and recreation. The expanding amount of exposed lakebed could also send arsenic-laced dust into the air that millions breathe, sê wetenskaplikes.
The state’s Republican-led legislature is trying to find ways to reverse the trend, but it will not be easy. Water has been diverted away from the lake for years for homes and crops in the nation’s fastest-growing state that is also one of the driest.
Elsewhere in the American west, lakes and reservoirs are continuing to hit new lows. In California, the state’s two largest reservoirs – Lake Oroville and Shasta Lake – are at critically dry levels. And on the Arizona-Nevada border, a shrinking Lake Mead continues to reveal its mysteries as the waters recede – including a liggaam in a barrel and a second world war-era boat.