Dust and mountain snow

In a recent University of Utah study, researchers added to the extensive body of knowledge about the alarming consequences of the shrinking Great Salt Lake on the health of Utah’s residents and the region’s water resources. UPHE is involved in a lawsuit to hold the state accountable for the lake’s diminishing size.

Snow on the Wasatch Mountains is at risk.

The study conducted by University of Utah researchers in 2022 investigated the impact of wind-blown dust on snowpack in the region. It found that 2022 witnessed the highest dust deposition events and snowpack dust concentrations since observations began in 2009. The dust on the snowpack caused it to melt 17 days earlier than it would have without dust, significantly affecting water resources in the area.

The study also explored the link between the record high dust concentrations and the low levels of Great Salt Lake. Unsurprisingly, Great Salt Lake was identified as a major contributor to dust deposition, accounting for 23% of total dust. 

Great Salt Lake plays a crucial role as a water source for Utah as a whole, and especially for the Wasatch Mountains, which are a cherished winter recreation haven for locals and tourists. Accelerated snowmelt due to dust has the potential to impact water availability and watershed functionality, affecting both the residents and ecosystems of the area.

UPHE’s involvement in the lawsuit against the state is an effort to address the serious consequences of the shrinking Great Salt Lake, particularly the adverse health effects on residents. The study’s findings indicate that as dust accelerates snowmelt, it affects water availability and could lead to water scarcity.

As the Great Salt Lake continues to shrink, UPHE’s lawsuit aims to hold the state accountable for the environmental and health impacts and to raise awareness about the potential consequences for the local communities.

Find the U of U report here.