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With Utah’s reservoirs sitting pretty, why not help the Great Salt Lake?

Sailboats and the state ranger dot the horizon of the Great Salt Lake during the 2024 Sailfest, the first in five years, June 15, 2024.
Elaine Clark
/
KUER
Sailboats and the state ranger dot the horizon of the Great Salt Lake during the 2024 Sailfest, the first in five years, June 15, 2024.

The return of the Great Salt Lake Sailfest after five years shows that water levels are higher than in recent years. That’s good news, but at 4,194.6 feet above sea level it’s still below a healthy level.

Meanwhile, around the state, many reservoirs are near or at full capacity (93% as of June 24) which is also an improvement over past years. So, Utahns might wonder, why can’t that excess water be sent into the Great Salt Lake.?

Mark Green is a member of the Great Salt Lake Yacht Club, and has been sailing on the lake for over 20 years.

“We have a boat up at Strawberry [Reservoir], and it's at its maximum level,” he noted at this year’s Sailfest. “And we're wondering why they don't let some of that water out come down here.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, the situation is complicated, said Brian Steed, commissioner of the Great Salt Lake, and restricted by previous agreements.

“How much water you can bring over is governed specifically by the compacts that Utah has signed on to,” he said. “And generally speaking, outside of an additional court order or additional renegotiation with the state engineer's office, there would be an inability to change when that water flows.”

Strawberry Reservoir eventually drains into the Colorado River by way of the Duchesne and Green rivers — although some of its water is brought to the Wasatch Front by the Central Utah Project. Others like Utah Lake, which is fed by the Provo River, have been spilling water into the Great Salt Lake.

Steed also said they can’t rely solely on reservoirs to get water into the lake.

“We’re going to have additional conservation, and we’re going to have to work with farmers and ranchers to make sure that we are as efficient as possible at using the water we have, and then getting those water savings to the lake.”

Alyssa is a Salt Lake City native and a junior at Goshen College in Goshen, Indiana, majoring in broadcasting.
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