GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Most lakes in the United States are made of freshwater. But, the largest body of water in the US after the Great Lakes is actually filled with saltwater, and it’s shrinking.
Utah’s Great Salt Lake is the largest saltwater body in the Western Hemisphere. It is a terminal basin, meaning water that streams into the lake has no other outlet besides evaporation which allows salt and minerals to concentrate. The Great Salt Lake is three to five times saltier than the ocean.
In July 2021 it reached its lowest water level on record, since 1875, and has continued dropping every day since. Orangey-brown areas along the edges indicate shallow water, while bright tan and white represent newly exposed portions of the lakebed. Both the Clyman and Bear River Bay have completely dried up.
Those are two main reasons for this decline: recent trends in precipitation and long-term trends in consumption by humans.
Snowfall was deficient this past winter, with rainfall also sparse over the past two years. The US Drought Monitor notes that 100% of Utah is experiencing severe drought. However, the biggest driver of the record-low water level is human consumption.
For more than 150 years, people have been taking more water out of the basin than is flowing into it. The volume of water in the Great Salt Lake has shrunk by 48% and dropped 11 feet since 1847. Scientists believe the lake will drop an additional foot over the next few months.
If you want to visit this breathtaking state park, you may want to do so sooner rather than later as it continues to dry up more and more every day.