The Great Salt Lake continues to crash-dive.

During July, its surface level fell at the rate of almost two inches per week.U.S. Geological Survey hydrologists measured the level of the lake's southern arm Monday at 4208.05 feet above sea level, an 18-inch drop since its seasonal peak Feb. 10.

Lee Case, district chief of the USGS's Water Resources Division in Salt Lake City, said the lake is 2.65 feet lower than at this time last year.

"During July alone, it dropped nearly eight inches. Only three other times since 1893 has the lake declined more than it did this July," he said.

Ralph Hatch, a hydrologist with the U.S. Weather Service's River Forecast Center in Salt Lake City, agreed, "This is extremely fast," for the lake's yearly decline.

So what's happening?

"We've had abnormally hot weather; we've had below-normal precipitation; the pumps (of the Great Salt Lake Pumping Project) have been going somewhat; and it's been windier (hot winds increase evaporation) than normal," Hatch said.

Ron Ollis of the Utah Division of Water Resources said one of the lake's pumps worked most of the month, with the second also pushing water into the desert during the last two weeks of July.

With normal climatic conditions and a continuation of pumping, Hatch said, the Great Salt Lake is expected to decline to a level of 4207 or slightly below by early fall.