Drought empties lakes in western US

Water levels in the Great Salt Lake have dropped to levels never seen before amid the devastating drought in the western United States.

Miami World / apnews

The U.S. Geological Survey announced Saturday that levels in that lake fell to an inch below the previous low of 1,278 meters (4,191.4 feet) set in 1963.

In addition, the low occurs well before the date of the year the lake reaches its lowest level, indicating that it could continue to decline, said Candice Hasenyager, deputy director of the Utah Department of Water.

Low water levels are already affecting pelicans in the area, which depend on water for food. The inhabitants of the region have taken their sailboats out of the lake to avoid getting stuck in the mud. And when the banks are exposed to the sun, the risk that dust particles with arsenic fly through the air and cause respiratory diseases among the population.

For years the population of the area has been directing the course of the rivers that flow into the lake in order to irrigate their crops and supply water to their homes. Due to the low depth of the lake – its maximum depth is about 11 meters (35 feet) – the lowering of its waters quickly erodes its shores.

The Great Salt Lake usually grows to a half meter (2 feet) in the spring, when the rivers that flow into it rise. This year, the springs caused a rise of just 15 centimeters (6 inches) in their level.

The drought is drying up lakes across the western United States and fueling wildfires in California and Oregon. Utah Governor Spencer Cox, a Republican, has urged people to stop watering their bushes and “pray for rain.”

These types of extreme conditions are caused by unusual and random weather events that have been exacerbated by long-term climate change caused by human activity.

Scientists have long warned that phenomena will become increasingly erratic and intense as the atmosphere warms.

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