Utah’s public research universities – The University of Utah and Utah State University – formed the Great Salt Lake Strike Team to provide a primary point of contact for policymakers as they address the economic, health, and ecological challenges created by the record-low elevation of Great Salt Lake. Together with state agency professionals, the Strike Team brings together experts in public policy, hydrology, water management, climatology, and dust to provide impartial, data-informed, and solution-oriented support for Utah decision-makers. The Strike Team does not advocate but rather functions in a technical, policy-advisory role as a service to the state.
The Great Salt Lake Strike Team developed an evaluation scorecard to create apples-to-apples comparisons of the most often proposed options. By briefly outlining these policies and providing necessary context, options, and tradeoffs, we give an overview of expected water gains, monetary costs, environmental impacts, and feasibility. Many options work in conjunction with others, particularly “Commit Conserved Water to Great Salt Lake” which is foundational to shepherding water conserved through other policy options to the lake.
Strike Team Policy Options
Commit Conserved Water to Great Salt Lake – Coupled with accurate quantification, appropriate procedural mechanisms, and practicable means of delivery, stakeholders may be able to commit conserved water to Great Salt Lake.
Agriculture Water Optimization – Agriculture water optimization provides immediate and improved resilience to producers and builds the foundation of flexibility, infrastructure, and methods required to make more water available for Great Salt Lake.
Optimize Municipal and Industrial Water Pricing – By optimizing water pricing in Utah, policymakers can improve water management and increase water deliveries to Great Salt Lake.
Limiting Municipal and Industrial Water Use Growth – Efficiency and conservation in new and existing M&I water use creates savings for future growth and can also conserve water to be delivered to Great Salt Lake.
Water Banking and Leasing – The State of Utah or the Great Salt Lake Trust could lease water for Great Salt Lake, reallocating water from willing sellers to willing buyers.
Active Forest Management in Great Salt Lake Headwaters – Thinning Utah’s forests is not likely to substantially increase the amount of water reaching the GSL. Although thinning can improve forest health and reduce the risk of severe wildfire, it does not always increase streamflow.
Great Salt Lake Mineral Extraction Optimization – Mineral extractors working on Great Salt Lake collectively hold over 600,000 acre-feet of water rights. The state is currently working with these companies to encourage innovative processes for new mineral development.
Import Water – Importing water to Great Salt Lake from the Pacific Ocean (or other sources) is feasible but would be expensive, slow, and controversial.
Increase Winter Precipitation with Cloud Seeding – Cloud seeding can marginally enhance the amount of snowfall inmountainous regions of primary water sources.
Raise and Lower the Causeway Berm –Raising the adaptive management berm at the Union Pacific Railroad
causeway breach between the North and South Arms of Great Salt Lake would effectively act as a dam. This would keep freshwater inflows of the major tributaries in the South Arm where salinity levels are reaching a critical threshold.