Question by Laurel Draper, Farmington, Utah 

Despite the daunting challenge of delivering the equivalent of two Bear Lakes to Great Salt Lake, Brad Wilson, Speaker of the Utah House of Representatives, told the Great Salt Lake Collaborative he feels positive about restoring the lake to former levels.

“With concerted efforts, and with a little help from mother nature, I am optimistic that we can get the lake levels back to healthy places.”

He said Great Salt Lake restoration will need a coordinated effort over the next five to ten years.

Joseph Wheaton, professor of Watershed Sciences at Utah State University, said determining a timeline for Great Salt Lake recovery is challenging. 

“It’s such a difficult problem and it’s so non-linear.”

That’s because climate change creates many possibilities for future outcomes.

“What’s becoming more common is irregularity, and that can also shift [the outcome] in other ways,” said Wheaton. 

He said attention should be focused on water management, watershed health, and adaptation strategies instead.  

Speaker Wilson also expressed concern about droughts and climate change influencing lake restoration efforts.

People can still help the lake right now, even though climate change adds an element of unpredictability to Great Salt Lake’s restoration. 

Wheaton said the most important action people can take is to stop water resource development, like river water diversions for farmland irrigation. 

Speaker Wilson expects to see an increase in water flows going to the lake in five to ten years. 

“What kind of climate cycle we’re in at that point is anyone’s guess,” Wilson said.

  • Reported and written by McCaulee Blackburn