Watershed Symposium 2018 has ended
Welcome to the official website of the 12th Annual Salt Lake County Watershed Symposium, November 14-15, 2018!  Free and open to all, the Symposium encourages a comprehensive review of the current state of our watershed while creating learning and networking opportunities for a broad array of stakeholders. Sessions cover a broad range of topics on water quality and watershed issues with local, regional, and national relevance. Hosted annually by Salt Lake County Watershed Planning & Restoration.

Powerpoints and audio recordings are available.  Click on a session and scroll down to the attached files.
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Thursday, November 15 • 10:55am - 11:25am
The Great Reduction: How We Can Save the “Polar Bears” of the GSL

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The Great Reduction: How We Can Save the “Polar Bears” of the GSL

The Great Salt Lake is home to the world’s second largest white pelican rookery, where these charismatic “polar bears” of the Lake face a crisis as lake levels drop. These peli-canaries in the coalmine face a cascade of impacts, but water conservation is being ignored as a viable solution to keep water flowing to the Lake, and time is running out.

Full Abstract
The Great Salt Lake has been called America’s Serengeti for birds. The Lake’s unprecedented diversity of habitats are vital for 8-10 million individual migratory birds with many species gathering at the Lake in larger populations than anywhere else on the planet. According to biologists the Lake is less than half its average volume. Upstream water diversions are a big part of this decline, as are increased air temperatures, which reduce snowpack and annual runoff patterns. A massive new proposed diversion of the Lake’s largest water source, the Bear River, would exacerbate these problems. It’s clear that humans are pushing the Lake closer and closer to disaster. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the secluded outpost of Gunnison Island, which hosts the world’s second largest white pelican rookery, with an average of 11,000 birds and 5,000 nests. These charismatic “polar bears” of the Great Salt Lake face a crisis as lake levels drop, and the birds’ island refuge where they raise their chicks becomes accessible. Recently Lake levels dropped low enough that the island was no longer surrounded by water allowing coyotes, humans and other predators to use the land bridge to invade this pelican sanctuary. These pelicans are the canaries in the coalmine; because as lake levels drop there will be a cascade of impacts on the ecosystem from the increased salinity, land bridges, and different invertebrate assemblage. Water conservation is largely being ignored as a viable solution to the Lake’s woes. Because urban Utahns use more water per-person than nearly everybody in the U.S., significant reductions in water use could put Utah on path to a sustainable water future and save the Lake from disaster. If Wasatch Front residents simply reduced their water use to that of scores of other western U.S. communities, it would require less water to be diverted out of the rivers that feed the Great Salt Lake. The solution is simple and obtainable, but time is running out.

avatar for Jaimi Butler

Jaimi Butler

Coordinator, Great Salt Lake Institute at Westminster College
Jaimi Butler is the coordinator of the Great Salt Lake Institute, housed at Westminster College. Despite the Great Salt Lakes’ reputation for being inhospitable, Jaimi fell in love with the lake and made it her place. After graduating with her Fisheries and Wildlife degree from... Read More →

Nick Schou

Conservation Director, Utah Rivers Council
Nick Schou has a M.S. in Environmental Humanities from the University of Utah, a B.A. in History from Westminster College. Nick spent 5 years working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in remote river canyons to restore endangered native fish species of the Colorado River. Nick... Read More →

Thursday November 15, 2018 10:55am - 11:25am MST
Lower Level - Ballroom A/B Utah Cultural Celebration Center, 1355 W 3100 S, West Valley City, UT 84119