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Great Salt Lake Collaborative
Great Salt Lake is at its lowest water level on record and continues to shrink. Utah Public Radio has teamed up with more than a dozen Utah organizations for the Great Salt Lake Collaborative, a group that has come together to share multimedia stories and rigorous reports about the lake and ways to protect this critical body of water before it's too late.

'Strike Team' releases new report on declining Great Salt Lake water levels

A group of nineteen adults poses together in front of a backdrop with the words "The University of Utah", "Utah State University", and "Serving Utah Together" tiled across it. Individuals in the group are both sitting and standing, and are wearing business attire, including suit jackets and pantsuits.
Aimee Van Tatenhove
The Great Salt Lake Strike Team poses for a photo at February's Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute Newsmaker Breakfast.

The Great Salt Lake Strike Team has announced findings from a new report about Great Salt Lake water levels and policy suggestions to reverse lake declines. The Strike Team includes researchers from Utah State University, the University of Utah, and representatives from state agencies.

Brian Steed, the executive director of the new Janet Quinney Lawson Institute for Land, Water, and Air at USU, provided an overview of the new report at this month’s Kem C. Gardner Newsmaker Breakfast. Included in the report were suggestions for creating target lake levels as lawmakers and environmental agencies attempt to allocate more water to Great Salt Lake.

“Currently, we are in what is identified as ‘serious adverse effects’, which means we're seeing concerns over salinity, as salinity has risen to the point where we're not seeing the same production of either brine shrimp or brine flies that we'd like to see. As well as just seeing some overall concerns on the health of the lake,” Steed said.

“We think that setting a lake level is important, because it's a target range and it's something that the state can work towards," Steed explained. "There has been a lot of conversation and it's been grim, about well, ‘all is lost’. I think that we absolutely can make a difference on our choices going forward, and those differences can make a real impact.”

“We identified 11 different options; they really fall in three tranches. One is conservation. Another is finding new water. And the third is working with engineering solutions on the existing lake to manage the lake as a more managed ecosystem,” Steed detailed.

Steed added that some Utah policymakers have been hesitant to set a target lake level, but argued that setting a goal will allow the state to gauge how effective water conservation measures are working.

Aimee Van Tatenhove is a science reporter at UPR. She spends most of her time interviewing people doing interesting research in Utah and writing stories about wildlife, new technologies and local happenings. She is also a PhD student at Utah State University, studying white pelicans in the Great Salt Lake, so she thinks about birds a lot! She also loves fishing, skiing, baking, and gardening when she has a little free time.