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Unique Features of the Great Salt Lake Basin

Some of the many unique scientific, political, and socioeconomic characteristics of the Great Salt Lake Basin are described below. For additional information, click the 'more' link following each characteristic.

Scientific Characteristics

    The Great Salt Lake Basin is a closed basin, meaning that it does not drain to an ocean. The Great Salt Lake (GSL) stands out as a collector and integrator of signals from climatic and anthropogenically-induced hydrologic change. These changes are recorded in ancient lake terraces, accumulated sediments, short-term lake level changes, and recent changes in lake water chemistry. More >>

    The Great Salt Lake Basin is a snow-dominated hydrologic system, and, as such, it is highly sensitive to climate change. More >>

    Changes in the volume of the Great Salt Lake, which have been recorded since 1847, represent the integrated effects of all of the major components of the hydrologic cycle. More >>

    The steep topography in the region provides short distances from catchment areas to the regional base level. Transects within the basin can span a range of geologies, elevations, climates, ecosystems, and land uses. More >>

    There is a high degree of interannual variability in precipitation within the Great Salt Lake Basin. In addition, the precipitation distribution is not normal, with bimodal tendencies toward wet or dry periods. More >>

    The three major watersheds to the east of the GSL (the Bear River, Weber River, and Utah Lake Watersheds) provide the vast majority of water, sediment, and contaminant flux to the Great Salt Lake. More >>

Political Characteristics

    Semi-arid regions represent a significant portion of earth's surface. More than three-quarters of a billion people (more than one in eight) are estimated to live in dry lands. More >>

    The region is becoming critically stressed. Population growth in the area has been about 5 times the national average, and the population is expected to grow approximately 50 percent in the next 20 years. More >>

    Much of the Great Salt Lake Basin is made up of federal and state lands. More >>

Socioeconomic Characteristics

    The GSL basin has long and complete histories of human habitation, land-use change, meteorology, and technological and water-use change in the western United States. Beginning with beaver trapping in the early 1800's and continuing with the extraordinary record keeping of settlers and early scientific investigations, this area has one of the best history of changes in the landscape of the western United States. More >>

    The Great Salt Lake Basin is attractive to visitors year round, with a wealth of recreational opportunities. The Great Salt Lake basin is centrally located within the Western U.S., with transportation infrastructure that makes it easily accessible. An international airport is located near the center of the Great Salt Lake Basin. More >>