Diverted water helping Great Salt Lake, reducing flood concerns

Weber Basin Water Conservancy District is sending water from Willard Bay to the lake.

Flood mitigation and preserving the Great Salt Lake are at the top of mind for many in the state, but fortunately, one is greatly helping the other.

On Thursday, the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District opened the spillway gates from Willard Bay and diverted millions of gallons of water into the Great Salt Lake, part of the billions being diverted in Weber County every day.

Once seen as “useless,” Willard Bay is now a great resource for helping the lake’s ecology.

“We’re not only filling our reservoirs, but we’re adding to the health and vitality of the Great Salt Lake,” said Scott Paxton, general manager and CEO of the district.

“It’s dumping about 650 million gallons per day and that’s significant. Right now we’re delivering the entire Ogden and Weber River, which is 3.3 billion gallons per day,” he added. “I don’t know how many swimming pools that is, but I think that’s about 21,000.”

Water from Willard Bay that will flow into Gilbert Bay also supports thousands of water birds.

“It helps freshen that water and provides the kind of environment where vegetation can thrive, and we have the vertebrates these species need,” said Marcelle Shoop, director of the National Audubon Society’s Saline Lakes Program.

Utah House Majority Leader Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, says that the Willard Bay water release is also helping to mitigate flooding in Weber County.

“Infrastructure that was built in the ‘60s is allowing us to still get that water directly into the Great Salt Lake,” helping to reduce flooding in Western Weber County, he said.

But both Paxton and Schultz say water conservation is still critical, meaning water use for each person needs to be reduced significantly.

“We can’t create any more water. What we can do is conserve, and (build) the infrastructure to conserve water,” Schultz said.

“We need to make sure we have enough water for generations to come, and make sure we can maintain the health of the Great Salt Lake for generations to come.”

This article is published through the Great Salt Lake Collaborative, a solutions journalism initiative that partners news, education and media organizations to help inform people about the plight of the Great Salt Lake—and what can be done to make a difference before it is too late. Read all of our stories at greatsaltlakenews.org.