Don’t Observe, Conserve! Help Save Our Great Salt Lake

Activism, Outreach and Education

“If Great Salt Lake dries up, we’re looking at a dust bowl in Salt Lake City … The Wasatch Front could very well be unlivable,” says Denise Cartwright of Save Our Great Salt Lake.
Photo: John Barkiple

The Great Salt Lake is drying up, and unless we act now, it might soon disappear for good. This issue demands the support of the people who call this area home. This is not a drill—our namesake will die if we don’t do something now!

Just over three months old, Save Our Great Salt Lake is one organization fighting for the lake’s protection. Founder and Executive Director Denise Cartwright explains that, for her, “Save Our Great Salt Lake is a passion project that was motivated by urgency.” A Master Esthetician and founder of skincare company CRUDE, Cartwright is just like any other Salt Lake resident trying to make a change. After hearing about the devastating state of the Great Salt Lake, she decided to put her skills to work. Offering “years of leadership, branding and digital campaign experience,” she says, “[my] focus is looking at the goals of the group and transforming that into messaging that is legible and engaging to the general public.” She is raising awareness and support from people like her and people like us. “I’m 33, I run a local business and I want to have a family here in Salt Lake City,” she says. “I want a happy, healthy future here. I want my children to have clean air to breathe and a livable, thriving city and planet to exist on.”


“We need you to push. Please, please, please help us scream, yell and show your support; contact your legislators to help communicate our unequivocal support for this precious ecosystem.”

The lake relies on runoff to fill its shores and maintain a healthy salinity.
Photo: John Barkiple

Already the second-driest state in the country, Utah has some of the highest per-capita water use, a figure disproportionate to the amount of water naturally collected. With rapid population growth, infrastructure expansion and climate change impacting our average rain and snowfall, the state is pushing the limits of an already dire situation: There isn’t enough water to replenish what’s being used. How does this affect the Great Salt Lake? The lake relies on runoff to fill its shores and maintain a healthy salinity. With more and more water being diverted from the shores, it is shrinking. What’s left is dry soil full of decades-old toxins creating dust that is easily picked up by strong winds. “If Great Salt Lake dries up, we’re looking at a dust bowl in Salt Lake City … The Wasatch Front could very well be unlivable,” says Cartwright.

Additionally, one of the Great Salt Lake’s unique roles is that of a feeding ground for roughly 10 million migratory birds annually, which includes around 330 different species. However, as the homeostasis of the lake is disrupted, the organisms that feed these birds will die, forcing them to find other food. But, this can be prevented! There are still large amounts of these necessary organisms surviving underwater. If legal protection of the lake can be won, there is still hope for the ecosystems of the lake.


“I want a happy, healthy future here. I want my children to have clean air to breathe and a livable, thriving city and planet to exist on.”

“It’s crucial that Utah residents take interest, responsibility and stewardship of our ecosystems. The Indigenous populations that stewarded the lake and this land before it was forcibly taken from them through settler colonialism understood this. Their descendants understand this,” says Cartwright. It’s time for that same responsibility to motivate everyone enjoying the splendor of the Wasatch Front—the ski-bums and the dirt-bags, the underground local bands, the brewers, roasters and distillers, the downtown nightlife lovers and the sunrise hikers. “History shows that Utah needs to be pushed (hard) to take water conservation seriously,” says Cartwright, “so we need you to push. Please, please, please help us scream, yell and show your support; contact your legislators to help communicate our unequivocal support for this precious ecosystem.”

You can get involved this legislative season (Jan. 18–Mar. 4) by writing a postcard to one of Utah’s elected officials, signing the petition at saveourgreatsaltlake.org and volunteering for citizen lobbying at the statehouse—no prior experience necessary! If you’re an artist, Save Our Great Salt Lake is collecting posters and poems for their #ArtistsForGSL campaign. Follow them on Instagram @saveourgreatsaltlake and on Twitter @saveourgsl for more updates on campaigns and events. For questions about getting involved, email [email protected].