More than meets the eye - managing salinity in Great Salt Lake, Utah

J. White
Sarah E. Null
David G. Tarboton, Utah State University


Great Salt Lake (GSL) is a pluvial lake and a remnant of historic Lake Bonneville. It is the largest saline lake in the Western Hemisphere, and fourth-largest in the world. The only outflow of water is via evaporation, causing a very gradual accumulation of minerals. Over time, this has led to high salinity in GSL, and is responsible for the relatively simple but highly productive saline ecosystem. The lake is a critical link in the Pacific flyway, supporting millions of migratory and resident birds, which feed on invertebrates inhabiting the lake. The lake is also used commercially for mineral extraction and brine shrimp harvest. GSL is vital to the local and regional economy, contributing an estimated $1.3 billion, and supporting nearly 8,000 jobs.