Societal responses to climatic fluctuations can be difficult and costly. The recent case of the rising level of the Great Salt Lake indicates that resource managers are often unprepared to respond to climate related impacts, except in an ad hoc and costly fashion. Precipitation in the Great Salt Lake drainage basin between 1982 and 1986 averaged 134 percent of normal, resulting in a rise in the level of the Great Salt Lake of 3.66 m (12 ft) to a new historic record high level of 1283.77 m (4211.85 ft). This rise in the level of the lake has had widespread adverse impacts, forcing resource managers to implement costly emergency flood mitigation measures. Policymakers, however, have been unwilling to implement long-term policies aimed at adapting to fluctuating lake levels, relying instead on crisis management while hoping that the lake will soon recede. The water level of the Great Salt Lake, its impacts and adjustments, and an assessment of the long-term adjustment options are discussed.

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Footnotes

1 Sponsored by the National Science Foundation.