The first year of Great Salt Lake pumping lowered the lake by 13 inches, according to the annual report by the Utah Department of Natural Resources.
But naturally dry conditions in 1988 helped reduce the flooding by twice as much as man's efforts, knocking another 25 inches from the level. And predictions are that the lake will continue downward.The report, released on Monday, notes that the American Society of Civil Engineers presented its award of merit to the West Desert Pumping Project as the outstanding civil engineering achievement of 1988. The award was the result of a nationwide competition.
"Approximately 1.55 million acre feet of water from the north arm of the lake was pumped to the West Desert evaporation pond by July 1, 1988," says the report. "By then, evaporation and pumping had reduced the lake nearly 38 inches below the record . . . level reached in 1986 and 1987."
The record high level was 4,211.85 feet above sea level. Since reaching that height, the lake has been retreating, as the weather turned drier.
In fact, U.S. Geological Survey hydrologists say that on Jan. 15 the lake was at only 4206.45 feet above sea level - the same level as on Dec. 1 and Dec. 15, 1988.
Assuming that the pumps resume their job when the weather becomes warmer, and that Utah has normal temperature and precipitation, lake experts predict that the lake will peak at between 4,206.75 and 4,207.25 feet above sea level. That would be around 21/2 or 3 feet lower than the 1988 peak.