WHERE THE WATER WAS
ARTIST STATEMENT & INFORMATION
In this series I imagine the experience of current and future generations of Salt Lake City, UT if nothing is done to stem the drying up of the Great Salt Lake (GSL). The work is ongoing and focuses on multiple characters, all who visit the GSL to enjoy it as their parents and grandparents did. The Saltair, the structure seen behind the subject in some of the images, was built in 1893 to be a western version of Coney Island and attracted bathers from all over the country to try and sink in the lake (the salinity of the lake increases swimmers buoyancy so sinking is near impossible and floating is much eaiser), picnics, and dances. It also featured one of the largest roller coasters in the United States before it burned down in 1925. The Great Salt Lake attracted 500,000 visitors per year in the height of its tourism boom and while the Saltair was rebuilt, it struggled to regain it's popularity. The structure there today was built in 1982 and is vacant a majority of the year.
I have fond childhood memories of going to the Great Salt Lake; trying to sink in the water, going to the Saltair for saltwater taffy, seeing the winning vehicles from Bonneville Speed Week, and coming back home stinking to high hell (The heavy brine traps organic material such as algae/animals remains and gases at the bottom of the lake. When the bottom of the lake gets stirred up, lots of bubbles rise to the surface). While I've definitely taken it for granted all these years, I'm shocked and deeply saddened to see how much it has shrunk and how dystopian it feels now.
Utah, like much of the American West is facing an unprecedented water crisis caused by water diversion to corporate farming and breakneck urban growth. Within the lake bed of the Great Salt Lake are several toxic heavy metals including arsenic and mercury. If the lake completely dries up it will expose the lake bed to wind, creating storms of toxic dust that will poison the air all Utah's capitol, Salt Lake City and by some estimations, the air across the United States.
"The lake’s flies and brine shrimp would die off — scientists warn it could start as soon as this summer — threatening the 10 million migratory birds that stop at the lake annually to feed on the tiny creatures. Ski conditions at the resorts above Salt Lake City, a vital source of revenue, would deteriorate. The lucrative extraction of magnesium and other minerals from the lake could stop."**
"In 2016, NASA released satellite images demonstrating the water loss of the Great Salt Lake. Approximately 50% of the lake bed is now exposed. Currently, approximately 40% of the river water feeding the Great Salt Lake is diverted and used for farming, industry, and other forms of human consumption. According to the University of Utah Genetic Learning Science Center, the Great Salt Lake has the highest levels of mercury anywhere in the United States buried deep within the brine layer (approx. 19ft down)" ***
"Perhaps most alarmingly, Salt Lake City will soon not have enough water to support its population: Demand is set to exceed supply in 2040. The contraction of the Great Salt Lake, which provides up to 8% of the precipitation on the surrounding mountain ranges that feed into the areas rivers, will cut water supply further. But Utah's Republican Governor Spencer J. Cox, has resisted calls for measures such as a construction moratorium. 'We've always been in a dry state, and we've had very positive economic development.' Cox said at a press conference in May, 2022. 'We are in a drought cycle right now. I don't anticipate that the drought cycle will last forever. I don't know if it will last one more year or five more years or 10 more years.' ****
As of the 2020 cycle, Spencer J. Cox received $484,657 in donations from the real estate industry.*****
** New York Times, "As the Great Salt Lake Dries Up, Utah Faces An 'Environmental Nuclear Bomb' published June 9, 2022.
*** LiveScience.com, "Facts about the Great Salt Lake"
**** Bloomberg.com, "Salt Lake City Confronts a future without a lake" published July 8, 2022.
***** VoteSmart.org, "Spencer J. Cox's Finances"
WHAT IT USED TO LOOK LIKE
YOUR CONTRIBUTION MAKES THIS PROJECT POSSIBLE AND WILL EXPAND ITS SCOPE TO REACH NEW AUDIENCES THROUGH ADVERTISING, HIRING THE TALENT NEEDED TO CONTINUE SHOOTING, AND FOSTERING PARTNERSHIPS WITH ORGANIZATIONS WORKING TO SAVE THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
PLEASE CONSIDER MAKING A DONATION AT THE LINK BELOW.