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Letter: Look around and imagine what will happen when the Wasatch Front loses the “lake effect”

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) A winter weather along the Wasatch Front.

You think we have a water shortage now?

Jan Ellen Burton’s letter about the Aral Sea only told part of the story.

Once the fourth largest lake in the world, the historic Aral, a vast (26,300 square mile) “inland sea” was part of a circulatory climate system that provided life-sustaining water to the interior of the Asian continent. The “lake effect” of the Aral brought replenishing snow and rains to the Tien Shan, Pamir and Karakoram mountain ranges. The snow and rain that fell in those mountains fed the rivers which passed through the valleys of Central Asia and eventually ran back into the great Aral.

But as the Aral has diminished, the snows no longer sustain the glaciers of the mountains and the rivers themselves are dying. This is not just a product of a warming climate. The primary culprit was excessive diversion of water for poorly designed irrigation systems for water-thirsty crops. And the water that was returned to the rivers was then polluted with toxic fertilizers and pesticides.

Deny man’s effect on the environment all you want, but take a look at NASA’s Earth Observatory website to watch time lapse photography document the death of the Aral Sea. And then drive to Antelope Island (which, incidentally, is no longer an island) on the Great Salt Lake (a historic average of a mere 1,700 square miles) and ask yourself what will happen when the Wasatch Front no longer has a “lake effect.”

Barbara Watkins, Draper

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