NASA Satellite Imagery Shows Utah's Great Salt Lake Is Drying Up at Alarming Rate
Five years of drought and over-use of water from feeder rivers has seen Utah's Great Salt Lake shrink by almost 40 percent. The changes were dramatically revealed in before-and-after photos taken by the Landsat 8 satellite, recently released by NASA.
Before and after images taken in 2011 and 2016 reveal dramatic shrinkage of Farmington Basin in the Great Salt Lake. Joshua Stevens/Landsat/US Geological Survey
The Great Salt Lake is the largest salt-water lake in the Western Hemisphere. Three major rivers feed into the lake, but it has no outlet. Water leaves only through evaporation, creating the high salinity levels that give the lake its name. It is the eighth-largest such terminal lake in the world.
On average, the Great Salt Lake covers an area of about 1,700 square miles. In October, it had shrunk to 1,050 square miles. In the same month, the Great Salt Lake reached it lowest recorded level in history at 4,191.2 feet.
For more than 150 years, more water has been drawn out of the Salt Lake watershed than flows into it. The amount of water in the lake has declined by 48 percent and the lake level has fallen 11 feet since 1847.
Now, Utah is planning to spend
$1.5 billion to build seven dams along the Bear River, diverting as much as 220,000 acre-feet annually. This could drop water levels in the Great Salt Lake another four feet. The Utah Rivers Council calls it "disastrous."
Lobbyist’s Secret Plan for Bear River Water Grab and Lake Powell Pipeline Exposed https://t.co/3FXnIclgng— Utah Rivers Council (@Utah Rivers Council)1477083568.0
River flow into the basin has dropped 39 percent since the middle of the 19th century, largely due to population growth and agriculture. Irrigation consumes 63 percent of overall water use from the Bear, Jordan and Weber rivers that feed into the Great Salt Lake.
"Farmington Bay has been nearly desiccated as the result of the combined effects of drought and water withdrawals from the rivers feeding the lake," said Wayne Wurtsbaugh, who studies watershed sciences at Utah State University.
Water conservation programs promoted by the state have helped reduce water use per-person by 18 percent, but remain the second-highest in the U.S. Plus, a growing population offsets many of those gains.
NASA said that higher-than-normal temperatures and the five-year drought plaguing the American West have also taken a toll. The lake is known to respond rapidly to variations in rainfall.
NASA: Megadrought Lasting Decades Is 99% Certain in American Southwest https://t.co/MHyjT0yCbD @GravityDriven1 @climatechange— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1475798111.0
"A wildcard for the fate of the lake is what global
climate change may do to the basin," said Wurtsbaugh.
Wetlands along the northern and eastern shores of the lake provide habitat for more than 250 species of migratory birds and account for about 75 percent of the wetlands in Utah. These birds, numbering in the millions, feed on the lake's brine shrimp and brine flies.
As the lake shrinks, marinas have had to move. More and larger dust storms besiege the area. The lake's $1.3 billion contribution to Utah's economy is threatened.
"The solution to the water issue is greater conservation, particularly for agricultural irrigation," said Wurtsbaugh.
But the public has to do its part as well.
"If you walk across the Salt Lake Valley on a summer day, you will see gutters full of water," said Zachary Frankel, executive director of the Utah Rivers Council. "You will see people watering concrete because water is so cheap. And there are no repercussions for that. There are no water cops, there's no water education, nothing like that."
A "trash tsunami" has washed ashore on the beaches of Honduras, endangering both wildlife and the local economy.
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By Harry Kretchmer
By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
In another win for climate campaigners, leaders of 12 major cities around the world — collectively home to about 36 million people — committed Tuesday to divesting from fossil fuel companies and investing in a green, just recovery from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
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