March 08, 2022

The Great Salt Lake is in crisis: The West View joins journalism effort to explore solutions

Hikers enjoy a golden sunset on Antelope Island (which technically isn’t an island anymore due to record-low lake levels) on February 19.  Photo by Amy O’Connor
Hikers enjoy a golden sunset on Antelope Island (which technically isn’t an island anymore due to record-low lake levels) on February 19.  Photo by Amy O’Connor|||| Hikers enjoy a golden sunset on Antelope Island (which technically isn’t an island anymore due to record-low lake levels) on February 19. Photo by Amy O’Connor|||| ||||
By Charlotte Fife-Jepperson

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.

The West View is proud to announce that we have joined forces with 17 local organizations, primarily news outlets, focused on ways to restore the Great Salt Lake to healthy water levels.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the water level of the Great Salt Lake is at a record low. As water levels continue to drop and more and more of the lakebed is exposed, the fragile ecosystem of the lake is in danger of collapse.

Studies have shown that a collapse would have devastating effects on millions of migratory birds that rely on the lake for habitat and food, and could cost billions of dollars in the recreation, tourism, mineral extraction, and brine shrimp industries.

In addition, dust laced with mercury, arsenic and other toxins from the dry lakebed would be carried in the wind all over the Wasatch Front, further polluting our air and causing snow to melt more rapidly in the Wasatch Mountains.

We know the increase in cancer-causing air pollution will happen, because it has happened in other places, such as Owens Lake in California, which is currently the largest source of PM10 pollution in the United States. California has spent more than $2 billion to combat toxic dust pollution from the dry lakebed, and it is an ongoing problem.

Why should Westside residents care?

The Great Salt Lake is an underappreciated treasure teeming with birds, wildlife, and starkly beautiful, open landscapes, and it adds greatly to our economy. Furthermore, scientists say that because of our proximity, Salt Lake City’s Westside would be severely impacted by toxic air pollution from dust if the lake were to continue shrinking.

Throughout the year, we will be republishing and linking to informative stories written by other partners involved in the Great Salt Lake Collaborative to shed light on the dire consequences of the shrinking lake and ways to reverse that trend by putting more water back into it.

While the news partners may have viewed each other in the past as competitors, we believe this issue is too important to cover alone. And we are joined in this effort by researchers, librarians, writers, and educators who care about the lake and want to promote solutions.

The collaborative will answer this question: During a time of drought, climate change and major population growth, how can Utah better support a critical body of water? 

We will do this through rigorous journalism, innovative storytelling, and unique community outreach with the goal of increasing our readers’ awareness of the issue.

Do you have ideas for the collaborative or comments about your connection to the lake? Please share your thoughts and suggestions here.

Editors’ Note: This effort is supported by a grant from the Knight Foundation via Solutions Journalism Network’s Local Media Project, which seeks to strengthen local media ecosystems, and is sponsored by the Community Foundation of Utah.

The current partners in the Great Salt Lake Collaborative are:

  • Amplify Utah
  • Deseret News
  • Fox 13
  • Great Salt Lake Institute at Westminster College
  • KCPW
  • KRCL
  • com
  • KSL-TV
  • KSL NewsRadio
  • KUER
  • Salt Lake City Public Library
  • Salt Lake Community College Community Writing Center
  • Standard-Examiner
  • The Salt Lake Tribune
  • The West View
  • Utah Film Center
  • Utah Public Radio
  • Utah State University researcher

Other Coverage

Published in Spring 2022