New study reveals that 90 percent of urban dust comes from dry lakebeds
The Great Salt Lake reached historic low levels in recent years and continues to dry as a result of drought and water diversions. As water levels decrease, the exposed area of dry lakebed increases, creating major sources of mineral dust. Declining water levels are a major concern for scientists and the general public alike, but air quality is often overlooked as one of the potentially harmful consequences of receding lakes.
New research from BYU’s geological sciences department found that about 90 percent of dust in Utah’s Wasatch Front comes from the west desert, an area that was once covered by the prehistoric Lake Bonneville but that is now a dried lakebed. More recently, shallow lakes like Sevier Dry Lake and the Great Salt Lake, which are remnants of Lake Bonneville, have been exposed as water inflows are diverted for consumptive use. Researchers predict this percentage is only going to increase as water levels decline and more dry lakebed is exposed.
“Lakebeds are muddy, but as they dry out, they become a dust pan,” said study co-author and former BYU graduate student Michael Goodman. “Dry lake beds are becoming a significant dust threat to nearby communities, not only impacting air quality but also impacting soil and what can grow in it.”