Climate change and a population boom could dry up the Great Salt Lake in 5 years

Read the full story from NPR.

Trekking along the shoreline of the Great Salt Lake — the largest remaining saltwater lake in the western hemisphere — can feel eerie and lonely.

“These might even be my footprints from last week,” says Carly Biedul, pointing to indents in the mud. Biedul is a biologist with the Great Salt Lake Institute. She’s bundled up in an orange puffy jacket, gloves and hat. Most important she’s wearing thick, sturdy, rubber boots.

The mud with a frozen, slick layer of ice on top gets treacherous. One thing that’s hard to prepare for though, is the stench: a pungent odor like sulfur and dead fish. But it’s actually a good thing, a sign of a biologically healthy saline lake.

“People have been saying that they miss the lake stink because it just makes them feel like home,” Biedul says. “It’s just not here [much] anymore, so you’re lucky that it gets to smell so bad.”

Lucky? Maybe one small bright spot in an otherwise grim story of a looming ecological disaster. The lake doesn’t really stink anymore because it’s drying … and dying.

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