As Great Salt Lake dries up Utah will face toxic dust clouds

Environmental catastrophe in Utah
The mud from the lake will poison the air
Arsenic in the air
Heavy metals
Ecosystem to the limit
Fewer insects, fewer birds, fewer animals
The lake is already a third of what it was
99% of Utah in drought
Water supply problems?
The precedent of Lake Owen in California
Lake Owen in a satellite image
The Aral Sea disaster
Before and after the Aral Sea
In 2040 there will not be enough drinking water in Salt Lake City
The last days of Great Salt Lake
Environmental catastrophe in Utah

Great Salt Lake in Utah is drying up and if it continues like this, it will be a new Aral Sea, a body of water that has disappeared forever. The consequences go beyond desertification. The New York Times has warned about what is described as an "environmental nuclear bomb".

The mud from the lake will poison the air

As the water level of the lake has lowered drastically, the mud of the lake has become exposed, which, when it dries, turns into a dust that can be highly toxic.

Arsenic in the air

According to scientists quoted by The New York Times, the dust that will emerge from the bed of what was Great Salt Lake could create a large toxic cloud containing arsenic, a highly poisonous substance.

Heavy metals

This "toxic storm" could also contain traces of heavy metals, which have ended up in the lake due to decades mining activity in the area.

Image: Billy Clouse/Unsplash

Ecosystem to the limit

The Great Salt Flats of Utah ecosystem is on the verge of irreversible collapse. Bonnie Baxter, biology professor at Westminster College, summed it up in The New York Times: "It's terrifying."

Fewer insects, fewer birds, fewer animals

Great Salt Lake in Utah has been drying up for years but alarm over the situation only began recently. Environmentalists warn that without its water insects will die and, therefore, the birds will not be able to feed and that will cause a catastrophic chain effect on the fauna and flora of the area .

The lake is already a third of what it was

According to data from the United States Geological Survey collected by Euronews, Great Salt Lake of Utah has gone from having an area of approximately 8,547 square kilometers in 1980 to 2,590 today. Which means that it has lost two thirds of its extension.

Image: From USGS - http://ut.water.usgs.gov/greatsaltlake/images/GSLmap2.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1223825

"Environmental Nuke Bomb"

It was Joel Ferry, a member of the Republican Party in the Utah House of Representatives, who gave the definitive headline to The New York Times by describing the Great Salt Lake situation as an "environmental nuclear bomb".

99% of Utah in drought

The drought in the state of Utah is a persistent and worrying phenomenon. Governor Spencer Cox declared a state of emergency, assuring that "the drought affects 99% of the territory of the state of Utah."

Water supply problems?

The mayor of Salt Lake City, Erin Mendenhall, also warned about this drought and anticipated the possibility that the water supply would be compromised.

The precedent of Lake Owen in California

What is happening in Utah was already seen in California when Lake Owen dried up. It happened in 1926 when the water from the river and streams that fed it was diverted to Los Angeles. Since then, periodic clouds of toxic dust with arsenic, cadmium and other dangerous elements have been produced. The area hardly has any inhabitants due to this.

Lake Owen in a satellite image

The obvious devastation of Lake Owen is terrifying (see satellite image), but the dimensions of the Great Salt Lake are much larger, so the catastrophe in Utah is also larger than the one that occurred in California.

Image: By ISS Expedition 28 crew - NASA Earth Observatory, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16446790

The Aral Sea disaster

Another precedent for brutal human action on an aquifer mass was the drying up of the Aral Sea by the former Soviet Union. The channeling of its waters in the 1960s made it practically disappear.

Before and after the Aral Sea

The comparison between what was the Aral Sea and the meager extension in which it has remained is devastating.

In 2040 there will not be enough drinking water in Salt Lake City

Global warming added to human action on the territory without control triggers the phenomenon of drought. The Great Salt Lake of Utah is in danger but, according to Euronews, there are scientists who calculate that by 2040 the drinking water resources of Salt Lake City may be exhausted.

Image: Brandon Green/Unsplash

The last days of Great Salt Lake

If no urgent action is taken, Utah's Great Salt Lake will be a desert where water once was. And nearby towns may be rendered uninhabitable by toxic dust. A future that, hopefully, can be avoided.

Image: Michael Hart/Unsplash

 

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