Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will donate 20,000 acre-feet of water to the Great Salt Lake in an attempt to save the shrinking body of water, the Utah Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced on Wednesday.

Driving the news: The church, one of the largest private landowners in the U.S., gifted 5,700 of its water shares in the North Point Consolidated Irrigation Company to the state.

  • Utah distributes water rights to water companies, which supply shares to other entities at a cost. DNR is managing the water donation. It said it will collaborate with the Great Salt Lake Watershed Enhancement Trust, established by the Utah Legislature last year with $40 million to enhance water quality.
  • The price tag of the church's donation was not disclosed.

Zoom out: House Speaker Brad Wilson announced last year the Weber Basin Water and Jordan Valley Water conservancy districts committed to sending an additional combined 30,000 acre-feet of water to the lake.

Flashback: Last summer, the church said it would work to reduce its water use in all buildings and facilities as much of the state experienced "extreme" drought.

  • Great Salt Lake researchers released an alarming report in January that found the saline lake could disappear by 2027 if its current rate of water loss continued.
  • The Great Salt Lake's water levels have faced a steady decline since the late 1980s, per the report. Since 2020, the lake has lost an average of 1.2 million acre-feet of water annually.

Why it matters: If the lake dries up, it could result in severe environmental, ecological and health consequences, according to DNR.

  • The church's donation comes as local, state and federal leaders work to halt the lake's demise.

What they're saying: "The Church wants to be part of the solution because we all have a responsibility to care for and be good stewards of the natural resources that God has given to us," Bishop W. Christopher Waddell, first counselor of the Presiding Bishopric of the Church, said in a statement.

  • Joel Ferry, DNR's executive director, said the water will "benefit the lake year after year."

Context: The volume of water is equivalent to the size of the Little Dell Reservoir in Salt Lake County.

Axios Salt Lake Reporter
Kim Bojórquez is a Utah-based reporter for Axios. She formerly worked as a politics reporter at The Salt Lake Tribune. Prior to joining the Tribune, she worked at Deseret News and at The Sacramento Bee's Capitol Bureau as a Report for America corps member.

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