How to compare Owens Lake and Great Salt Lake

Five things you need to know about what makes Owens Lake in California different but similar to Great Salt Lake in Utah.

(Spenser Heaps | Deseret News) Arrash Agahi, Owens Lake’s regulatory compliance supervisor for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Energy, looks at an area of ​​the lake bed that has been converted into a brine pond to control dust kick-up reduce while giving journalists a chance Guided tour of the project area on Thursday 08/11/2022.

Editor’s noteThis story from the Great Salt Lake Collaborative is part of day two of our series, “At the Water’s Edge: Finding Solutions at the Great Salt Lake’s Sister Lakes Beyond the Great Basin.” The detailed project involves the work of several journalists from several Utah news organizations. Read more stories and view photos, videos and interactive maps

1. Like Owens Lake, the Great Salt Lake is a salt lake in the Great Basin. The basin covers more than 200,000 square miles and is under pressure. But unlike Owens Lake, which dried up in 1926 due to the diversion of its tributaries, the Great Salt Lake remains half full and still has a chance to struggle.

2. The dust created by California’s dried-up Owens Lake was the nation’s worst source of PM10 pollution, leading to federal regulatory scrutiny and a comprehensive monitoring system. No such framework exists for the Great Salt Lake, although officials acknowledge that blowing dust off the exposed lake bottom is a problem. Much of the Great Salt Lake’s exposed lake bed is hard crust which, if left unperturbed, poses a far less threatening problem than Owens Lake.

[To view photos, videos and interactive maps, click here.]

3. The Great Salt Lake, the largest salt lake in the western hemisphere, is 12 times larger than Owens Lake in California. The sheer scale of the problem caused by a dying lake in Utah has the potential to vastly eclipse what happened in California.

4. Both lakes are glacial remnants and are part of a loosely connected network of 20 saline terminal lakes in the Great Basin, bounded on the east by the Wasatch Front and on the west by the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Ranges.

5. There are a few small towns and communities affected by Owens Lake pollution, affecting an estimated 40,000 people. In contrast, 2.6 million Utahns — most of the state’s population — live along the Wasatch Front and are vulnerable to the dying Great Salt Lake.

This article is published by the Great Salt Lake Collaborative, a solutions journalism initiative that brings together news, education and media organizations to educate people about the plight of the Great Salt Lake — and what can be done to help make a difference before it’s too late. Read all of our stories below How to compare Owens Lake and Great Salt Lake

Justin Scacco

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