IP- Without dramatic cuts to water consumption, Utah's Great Salt Lake is on track to disappear within five years, a dire new report warns, imperiling ecosystems and exposing millions of people to toxic dust from the drying lake bed.

Iran PressAmerica: The report, led by researchers at Brigham Young University and published this week, found that unsustainable water use has shrunk the lake to just 37 percent of its former volume. The West's ongoing mega-drought - a crisis made worse by climate change - has accelerated its decline to rates far faster than scientists had predicted.

But current conservation measures are critically insufficient to replace the roughly 40 billion gallons of water the lake has lost annually since 2020, the scientists said.

The report calls on Utah and nearby states to curb water consumption by a third to a half, allowing 2.5 million acre-feet of water to flow from streams and rivers directly into the lake for the next couple of years. Otherwise, it said, the Great Salt Lake is headed for irreversible collapse.

"This is a crisis," said Brigham Young University ecologist Ben Abbott, a lead author of the report. "The ecosystem is on life support, [and] we need to have this emergency intervention to make sure it doesn't disappear."

Scientists and officials have long recognized that water in the Great Salt Lake watershed is overallocated, - more water has been guaranteed to people and businesses than falls as rain and snow each year.

Agriculture accounts for more than 70 percent of the state's water use - much of it going to grow hay and alfalfa to feed livestock. Another 9 percent is taken up by mineral extraction. Cities use another 9 percent to run power plants and irrigate lawns.

There are so many claims on the state's rivers and streams that, by the time they reach the Great Salt Lake, there's very little water left.


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