Utah Division of
Forestry, Fire & State Lands

Utah Department of Natural Resources

Great Salt Lake Integrated Water Resource Model

What is Going to Happen to Great Salt Lake?

Great Salt Lake Photo Elevation Difference

Is Great Salt Lake drying up? How might forecasted population and economic growth in Northern Utah change water levels in the lake? How might an extended drought affect the lake? What does that mean to Great Salt Lake’s natural resources, the economic and ecological benefits that are derived from them, and the people who live near its shores? These are all questions the State of Utah has been grappling with that this project hopes to help begin to answer.

The Need

A recurring challenge for State regulatory and resource agencies is defining and understanding how variable precipitation and water management in Great Salt Lake’s watershed can influence the lake’s water levels and salinity and subsequently the resources the lake supports. State agencies have not had an effective tool at their disposal that integrates available information to better understand these issues and support sustainable management of Great Salt Lake resources – until now.

GSL-IRWM Model ChartIn 2012, the Great Salt Lake Advisory Council (GSLAC) recommended the development of an Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) model to help address the need and answer these pressing questions. "Understanding changes in future water supply and its relationship to Great Salt Lake levels is central to sustainable economic benefits from the lake and is important to sustain critical habitat and a healthy ecosystem” (Great Salt Lake Advisory Council, 2013). Their recommendations were echoed by several subsequent studies and resulted in the development of this project, inclusion in the Governor’s budget, and approval by the 2014 Utah State Legislature.

The Purpose

The purpose of the Great Salt Lake IWRM model project is to provide State agencies and stakeholders with a tool that:

  1. Describes how changes in water management and availability in Great Salt Lake and its watershed could impact the lake's water levels and salinity,
  2. Could be used to evaluate potential impacts to and changes in the lake's resources,
  3. Will serve as a foundation for addressing future management challenges.

The Approach

GSL Photo Showing Lake Level Difference

The first phase of the project will develop a model scoping document that defines model objectives and architecture and will conclude in August 2015. The second phase of the project will be to develop the IWRM model itself for use by State agencies and stakeholders. This phase is expected to conclude in August 2016. The end result will be a tool to assist the State in supporting sustainable growth and management of Great Salt Lake. Central to achieving the project’s objective is to keep stakeholders informed so that this model is relevant, accurate, and will form an accepted foundation for future evaluations. The public is encouraged to stay connected via this website.

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