The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is taking a public stance on water conservation to help preserve the depleted Great Salt Lake.
- The Great Salt Lake has hit record-low water levels for the past two years due to a drought and high usage.
- Scientists from Brigham Young University warned in a January 4 report that the lake could totally disappear within five years.
- The Latter-Day Saints church, based in Salt Lake City, responded to the crisis on Wednesday by donating 20,000 acre-feet of water in North Point Consolidation Irrigation Company to the state in an effort to assist conservation efforts. An acre foot of water covers an acre of land with one foot of water, about 326,000 gallons.
- Speaking Friday, Bishop W. Christopher Waddell encouraged people to be “wise stewards” of the planet and further outlined the church’s conservation efforts.
- State Republicans are leading a bipartisan conservation effort to prevent the lake from drying up.
Why It’s Important
The Great Salt Lake plays a critical role in the industrial and agricultural prosperity of the people of Utah, particularly for major industries surrounding Salt Lake City. These businesses collectively contribute $1.5 billion yearly to the state’s economy.
It is the largest saltwater lake in the northern hemisphere. The destruction of the lake stands to severely damage the state’s ecology—increasing the salt level of the lake and killing existing wildlife—with thousands of species depending on a lake that has lost 73% of its volume since 1850, around the time when pioneers began settling the region.
As NPR notes, the growth of the state’s population has coincided with more water being diverted for drinking water. The state is one of the fastest-growing populations in the U.S.
Friday’s speech marked one of the most extensive public addresses on environmental concerns to historical come out of the Church of Latter Day Saints, The Salt Lake Tribune reports. The church released a full summary of the speech here. The church says it is already planning additional conservation efforts.
Efforts to address conservative has been led by a joint bipartisan effort, including state Republican and Democrats, with House Majority Leader Brad Wilson (R-Kaysville) leading the state’s environmental efforts. “The Great Salt Lake is one of our greatest natural resources. And the lack of the Great Salt Lake is one of our greatest threats,” says Wilson.
“Though our efforts have not been and are still not perfect, there is a continual and ongoing Churchwide effort to improve our care of natural resources, including the implementation of best practices and available technology to improve our water efficiency. Let me share a few of the steps that are being taken, which we believe will make a difference,” says Bishop Waddell.
“We’ve been working on this for a long time, and I’m so excited to finally make it public. We are so grateful to the church for their generosity and stewardship. Together with the state’s $1 billion investment and massive policy changes, the future of the lake has never been more secure,” says Utah Governor Spencer Cox.