Question by Stephen Atkin, Salt Lake County

Great Salt Lake will be strained by droughts moving forward. This is one reason why conservation and restoration efforts are so critical. Action needs to be taken now because Utah will only become drier in the near future. 

Researchers have said 65% to 80% of diverted river water, which would be going to the lake, goes to agriculture in Utah. Water optimization in agriculture can help provide water for Great Salt Lake. 

Matt Yost, an agroclimate specialist at Utah State University, told the Great Salt Lake Collaborative his suggestions for improving agricultural water use. 

“Agriculture requires a lot of water,” he said. It takes “an estimated 355-gallon barrels of water to produce one loaf of bread.” 

Farmers can make switches to save water, such as changing their irrigation system. Drip irrigation is “the most efficient” system, according to Yost. 

Great Salt Lake Collaborative partner Salt Lake Tribune recently wrote about two hydroponic farms in Utah, which uses much less water than soil farming.

Deseret News, another Great Salt Lake Collaborative partner, wrote about a farmer in Utah who recently switched irrigation systems to save water and keep his farm in business. 

Switching to sustainable agriculture has barriers, however. Yost said certain water efficiency improvements are too expensive for some farmers. 

Robert Gillies, Utah’s Climatologist and USU professor of climate science, suggested farmers apply for the Water Optimization Program if they have financial restrictions. 

People living in residential areas can also optimize their water use to help Great Salt Lake. Slow the Flow can send a trained evaluator, for free, to improve indoor and outdoor water use. 

—Written and reported by McCaulee Blackburn