The Great Salt Lake & The Colorado River

The shrinking of the Great Salt Lake and the Colorado River raises concerns for the future of the western region. As someone who is considering moving back to the west, the issue is of particular concern. Although the west will always hold a special place in my heart, it is important to consider the prospects for the region before making a decision. Is there any hope for the region’s water supply and overall sustainability?

These stories are just depressing:
This short clip of the Great Salt Lake is depressing CBS News' "Sunday Morning" 🌞 on Instagram: "Utah’s Great Salt Lake has been in decline, owing to climate change, drought, and over-use of water resources, and is now one-third the size it was in the 1980s. 🌞"

How are y’all preparing and what are the prospects you see for the Southwest?

I think they need to put more water in Mead and store less in Lk Powell.

My dad was able to float Glen Canyon right when Powell started to fill. He has some great photos of Cathedral in the Desert, and other areas that were buried by the water. I really believe Glen Canyon would have been a National Park if they hadn’t put in the dam. It was that beautiful.

More to your question: I think Lake Powell is ultimately doomed. I don’t see it filling again in many, many decades, if ever.


I would love to move back to the West, especially the high desert areas of the West. Water issues, along with real estate prices make the idea a daydream.

I follow the water issues pretty closely, since we do have family living all over the Intermountain West. I’m glad to see that this years snowpack and water are well above normal, but all of the West need multiple years like this one, to even get back to normal for Lakes Powell and Mead, let alone who know how many resevoirs.

My parents have started to xeriscape. Took them long enough, IMO. My brother and his wife have been xeriscaping for years. My in-laws aren’t up to speed yet on any xeriscaping, perhaps someday in the near future.


IMO, there is no hope in the west (sans northwest) regarding water supply. The issue now has political implications, which is unfortunate. Here in Utah, many are still using water as though there’s no water shortage. I’m already hearing people who have said they are going back to regular lawn-watering practice given this year’s snowfall – one year’s worth of decent winter. btw, the fat lady has yet to sing for this year. Last year’s snowfall through 12/31 was also fantastic, then snow stopped. Obviously, fingers crossed and we need many more years like this.

Given the political leanings and corruptions here in Utah, I am not the least bit hopeful. The state is still focusing on selling coal and exporting water-thirsty ag products overseas. I feel badly for future generations. As I don’t have children, perhaps my empathy is limited and may be running out. We did it to ourselves.


Does anyone know how difficult it would be for farmers to switch from alfalfa and hay to another less thirsty crop? Based on what I’ve read, this would go a long way to helping the situation. Alfalfa and hay apparently use 2/3 of the water in the state.


Yeah, 50% of the water usage from the Colorado River is going to cattle and other farming from what I’ve read. I know there has been some farms in Southern California near the border moving to Solar Farms.


This is an hour long video of a group who retraced Powell’s journey down the Green & Colorado Rivers.


I read a biography of Wallace Stegner, the so-called Dean of Western Writers and environmental activist, who considered Salt Lake to be a home. He worked in the LBJ Administration and helped get the Wilderness Act passed & up & running.

Stegner & environmental associates like Stewart Udall from Arizona were excited and proud of getting Dinosaur National Monument squared away, but in later years Stegner felt like in their celebration of Dinosaur they’d really missed the opportunity to try and preserve Glen Canyon, with Lake Powell being the result.

As Ute Brave mentions above, Lake Powell is tougher & tougher to justify in this drought, as all that sandstone absorbs so much water, compared to Lake Mead, where the underlying geology is much more suitable to containing water.


I hate to mix sports talk with my day job, but this is my area of law practice.

The Colorado River is ground zero for the climate crisis. There are no easy solutions. There are no moderate or even hard solutions.

We already have cities in Utah and Arizona that have run dry. We literally have water refugees in the Colorado basin.

Time will tell if Powell should be removed. One thing about climate change is that we’re not sure how it will change, and what the cyclical patterns will be. So, we need water storage–and lots of it. Powell could have a rolw there, but it all depends on whether there’s sufficient precipitation and runoff.

Since the beginning of my career, I have looked forward to moving back West to retire. It’s been my dream and expectation. But now, my wife and I aren’t even considering that. Sure, our kids are all settled here on the East Coast, and that has a lot to do with our decision. But it’s also because I fear that the West has significant water problems ahead.

I could go on and on, but I won’t. Too depressing.


There’s much more evaporation from warmer, standing water with more surface than with colder running water.

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Yeah, I always thought I’d end up back in Southern California but the water is concerning. On the flip side the region I live in seems to have become the new tornado alley due to climate change.

I am glad for the snow this year, but it is going to take a decade or more of above average snowpack, rainfall, and lower temperatures to refill the aquifers. This refill is not “just the rivers and lakes.” A lot of the underground water sources are beginning to see some issues, too.

Hate to say “Screaming Sam” Kinnison is starting to seem like a prophet, when in his 1980’s stand up routine, he talked about how the Ethiopians needed to move to avoid famine.


“Give them Uhauls and move them where the food is!”


I wonder what that means for the Lake Powell Pipeline to St George they’ve been planning and planning on for years. The development in that area is mind blowing.


The Mayor of Ivins, UT (near St George) recently acknowledged that Washington County is running out of water. He said they’ve tapped every water source available and it still isn’t enough. At least one politician in Washington County is facing reality. With all the development happening down there, the future is going to be bleak. I don’t know what they are going to do and neither do they.

The Lake Powell pipeline was always a pipe dream. The former legislator from Kanab, Mike Noel, has a lot of land in Johnson Canyon. That pipeline was going to run right past his land and he was planning on using that water to develop his land. He’s the one who really got the idea of a pipeline started. Of course he wanted every Utahn to pay the $1B+ price tag for the pipeline that was only going to enrich him and the developers in St George.


I see what you did there … :smirk:

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When you drive around the rural areas of the state almost the only crop you see is alfalfa. We spend lots of time in Sanpete County and that’s all you see on the farms here. I think it’s market-driven. It would be a huge transformation to change, and disruption to communities and people everywhere in the state. Not saying it can’t be done. It’s just a tall order.

I ran across this interesting article from a publication called Utah business. Very predictably, and somewhat amusingly, the whole article is a defense of Utah golf courses, and their use of water.

I don’t know much about this issue and have no opinion about what should be done, but I am learning. This article shares some interesting perspectives.

So, the legislature should look at it. Work with the farmers and figure it out. It’s fine to ask Joe Homeowner to not waste water and xeriscape, but people are going to be justifiably dubious if nothing is done about the biggest consumers of water.

It may be market driven, but it equates to 0.2% of state GDP. I’m just saying that we should get the farmers involved and make a change.


THey aren’t helping either… Golf Courses in desert areas is one of the more stupid ideas humans have had. The sport was invented in SCOTLAND for god’ssake… See any deserts THERE? Let’s have people suck it up and play in some less than peachy weather for a change. #IronManGolf… now THERE’S a sport.