A recent report by Brigham Young University researchers finds that Utah’s Great Salt Lake could disappear within five years unless dramatic steps are taken to reduce water consumption in the region. The report found that water use has already shrunk the lake to 37% of its former volume, and the region’s ongoing drought is hastening its decline.
“This is a crisis,” Brigham Young University ecologist Ben Abbott, a lead author of the report, told the Washington Post. “The ecosystem is on life support, [and] we need to have this emergency intervention to make sure it doesn’t disappear.”
The lake’s disappearance could have a range of effects, from changing weather cycles to impacting industries that extract minerals from the waters. But the lake is also a critical rest stop for migrating birds. Some 10 million birds rely on the lake as they fly across the continent each year.