Lawsuit filed over shrinking of Utah’s Great Salt Lake

Category : Science/Environment

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. collapse / kəˈlæps / (n.) – a situation where something, such as an organization or plan, fails suddenly

    The company’s poor sales and customer service led to its collapse.

  2. aquatic / əˈkwæt ɪk / (adj.) – related to water

    Some examples of aquatic animals are sharks and dolphins.

  3. downside / ˈdaʊnˌsaɪd / (n.) – a disadvantage or negative quality of a situation

    The downside of owning an electric car is the limitation of charging stations.

  4. pale in comparison / peɪl ɪn kəmˈpær ə sən / (idiom) – to appear less important, serious, or significant when compared to someone or something else

    This hotel doesn’t look expensive and it pales in comparison to my friend’s vacation home in Spain.

  5. disappearance / ˌdɪs əˈpɪər əns / (n.) – the state of not existing anymore

    The company faced financial challenges after the disappearance of a big client.


Read the text below.

A lawsuit filed by a coalition of environmental groups says Utah officials have pushed the Great Salt Lake to the brink of an ecological collapse because they allowed upstream water to be diverted for decades to farmers.

The conservationists want a court to step in and force the state to let more water reach the largest natural lake west of the Mississippi River, which is an oasis for millions of migratory birds, an engine for Utah’s billion-dollar mineral industry and a tourist attraction.

The risks of a diminished Great Salt Lake aren’t merely beached sailboats and wider shores; they also include species extinction and toxic dust clouds billowing over nearby communities, the lawsuit says.

“The state of Utah hasn’t really done anything to lift Great Salt Lake water levels,” said Zachary Frankel, executive director of Utah Rivers Council. “It has refused to embrace new legislation being proposed by organizations like ours to raise Great Salt Lake water levels, to reduce water waste and to give the Great Salt Lake the aquatic protection it needs to exist in the 21st century.”

A spokesperson for Utah Republican Gov. Spencer Cox, declined to comment, citing ongoing litigation. The Associated Press sent an email seeking comment to the Utah Farm Bureau Federation.

State officials have repeatedly identified restoring the lake as a top priority. But despite a temporary rise in lake levels this summer after a record winter snowfall, the lake’s long-term outlook is bleak. Earlier this year, Cox created and filled the position of Great Salt Lake commissioner in an effort to find solutions.

The dilemma has pulled the Utah government in two opposite directions: meeting the water needs of businesses and citizens, and keeping the lake at safe levels.

The organizations suing the state, including the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity, say the downside of rationing fresh water upstream pales in comparison to that of a disappearing Great Salt Lake.

“The disappearance of the Great Salt Lake is also driving air quality impacts to millions of residents along the populous Wasatch Front because of the lake bed dust that gets carried in the air column when the wind blows off the dry lake bed,” Frankel said.

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • Do you think public opinions and advocacies should influence how the government makes decisions about protecting the environment? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • Are environmental groups in your city/country active? What makes you say so? Do you think your government is showing deep concern for the environment? Why or why not? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • The government of Utah is facing a dilemma: meeting the water needs of businesses and citizens, and keeping the lake at safe levels. In your opinion, what should the government prioritize: economic development or the protection of a natural resource? Why? Discuss.
  • Do you think your government is facing the same dilemma or conflict? What makes you say so? Discuss.
Category : Science/Environment