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Here’s how much water is flowing to the Great Salt Lake as the snow melts

About 37% more water is flowing into the Great Salt Lake from its tributaries than in a typical year, according to federal data.

By Megan Banta - The Salt Lake Tribune | May 24, 2024

Megan Banta, The Salt Lake Tribune

Water levels are up in Bear River Bay during a flyover of the Great Salt Lake with EcoFlight on Tuesday, April 9, 2024.

Editor’s note: This article is published through the Great Salt Lake Collaborative, a solutions journalism initiative that partners news, education and media organizations to help inform people about the plight of the Great Salt Lake — and what can be done to make a difference before it is too late. Read all of our stories at greatsaltlakenews.org.

About 37% more water is flowing into the Great Salt Lake from its tributaries than in a typical year, according to federal data.

As of Sunday, nearly 1.62 million acre-feet of water had gushed past gauges in the Bear River, Weber River, Goggin Drain and the Farmington Bay outlet heading toward the lake since Oct. 1, 2023, data from the U.S. Geological Survey shows.

The median cumulative flow for those four gauges as of May 19 is 1.18 million acre-feet. (One acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons).

Storms toward the end of January, February and March have made a difference that shows in reservoir levels and water flow.

As of last week, many reservoirs across the state were more than 90% full. Only two are below 60%: Yuba Reservoir in Juab and Sanpete counties and Lake Powell.

Great Salt Lake Collaborative

As the state releases water from reservoirs, it flows from several of those through streams, creeks and other rivers until it reaches the Great Salt Lake’s tributaries.

Most of the 1.62 million acre-feet — more than 527 billion gallons — that’s flowed toward the lake so far this water year has surged along the Bear River.

About 838,000 acre-feet flowed past gauges in the northern tributary between Oct. 1, 2023, and May 19 of this year, according to the USGS data.

That’s about 5% more than this point in the 2023 water year, and nearly 119% more than the same time in the 2022 water year.

More water than last year also is flowing past gauges in the Goggin Drain, where 226,000 acre-feet have surged through. That’s more than twice the flow as of this time last year and about 730% more than the 2022 water year as of May 19.

Water flow is up in the Weber River and at the Farmington Bay outlet compared to 2022, but there is less moving past those gauges so far this water year than in 2023.

As of Oct. 1, 290,000 acre-feet of water and 265,000 acre-feet have coursed past gauges in the Weber River and at the causeway at Farmington Bay, respectively.

Lake levels are rising in both the north and south arms.

Overall, lake levels remain low but are hovering around 4,195 feet — the level needed to avoid the “adverse effects” that harm overall ecosystem health and keystone species, like brine shrimp.


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