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Great Salt Lake, Utah's Defining Feature, Is Shrinking, Study

Update Date: Mar 01, 2016 02:12 PM EST

Utah's Great Salt Lake is shrinking, says a white paper by researchers at Utah State University. Just like other salt lakes that have dried up all over the world that have led to huge environmental destruction, Utah's well-known marine ecosystem, which is full of aquatic life, provides an economic value of $1.32 billion per year. It might soon come to an end.

Various causes of the reduction in size include the dramatic effects of water use and the climatic fluctuations on the levels of the terminal lake since the 19th-century pioneer settlement.

"There's no doubt about it, Great Salt Lake is shrinking," Wayne Wurtsbaugh, lead author on the paper, said in a press release. "Though we've witnessed droughts and floods in recent decades, impacts of water diversions have decreased the lake's level by 11 feet."

Utah residents should be cautious while developing the lake water supply, as it might increase the risk of shrinkage, says the team.

"As a state, we've made positive strides in water conservation, but these equate to only a 2 percent overall reduction of water use," said Wurtsbaugh, who explained that enough measures are not being taken to help the lake.

"Loss of water in the lake threatens its unique ecology, along with the wildlife and industries that depend on the lake's ecosystem services," he concluded. "Further, lowering lake levels increase dust pollution, which worsens the health effects of the Salt Lake City area's already serious air pollution problems."

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