A Report to the Utah Division of Water Quality
Utah Division of Water Quality
Farmington Bay covers 94 mi2 (260 km2) in the SW comer of the Great Salt Lake, and is essentially a separate lake because it is enclosed by Antelope Island and a causeway leading to the island from the mainland. The bay has received wastes from the adjoining Salt Lake City metropolitan area for decades. Because of water quality concerns for Farmington 8ay, the Aquatic Ecology Laboratory class at Utah State University studied the bay and a nearby control site (Bridger Bay) in the Great Salt Lake during the fall of 2001. Field sampling and laboratory experiments, as well as other data sources, demonstrated the bay is severely eutrophic and is one of the most polluted water bodies in the state of Utah. A preliminary nutrient loading estimate for the bay indicates that total phosphorus coming into the system is a-times higher than necessary for the bay to be classed as eutrophic. Sewage treatment plants discharging directly to the bay contribute approximately 500/0 of the nutrients. Metrics of eutrophication (chlorophyll, Secchi depth and total phosphorus) all indicated that the bay was hypereutrophic and the combined Trophic State Index was 91, higher than any other lake or reservoir in the state. Oxygen was supersaturated in the surface waters of Farmington Bay during the day, but the bottom water was anoxic. During the night, nearly the entire water column became anoxic due to respiratory demand of the biota. The anoxic conditions allowed high concentrations 'Of foul-smelling hydrogen sulfide to be produced. Brine shrimp were not abundant in Farmington Bay and the community was dominated by rotifers. In contrast, water quality in Bridger 8ay located on the main lake, was good and brine shrimp were abundant there. Our results, although restricted in scope, corroborate existing monitoring data from this bay. Water quality characteristics in Farmington Bay do not meet those mandated for the protection of aquatic life. Odor problems from the bay likely impact more people than are affected by any other polluted water body in the state. The impact of eutrophication and anoxia on the biota in Farmington Bay may also be substantial, although inadequate data exists to determine these impacts. There are substantial technical challenges to be overcome if water quality in the bay is to be improved to meet its designated use. However, before these technical issues can be solved, the responsible agencies will need to address the problem, and begin studies that may eventually lead to a solution to this serious water quality issue.
Wurtsbaugh, Wayne A.; Marcarelli, Amy; Christison, Cameron; Moore, Joel; Gross, Donovan; Bates, Sophia; and Kircher, Sara, "Comparative Analysis of Pollution in Farmington Bay and the Great Salt Lake, Utah" (2002). Watershed Sciences Faculty Publications. Paper 540.