The time is near-future. For peripheral reasons, the United States and the people of Utah have just had it with the Great Salt Lake: everyone wants it empty. There is a justified need to use the basin of the 4,400 km2 of the basin; dry, it is not a dire emergency: the studies, environmental impact statements have been done, and they are ready to undertake detailed planning and implementation of this project.

How difficult would this be, and what could this country best use the salt water for in a way that is socially, environmentally or economically beneficial to help justify* the costs of the displacement?

Speculative near-future technology and science is acceptable. 'Difficulty' assessment need not include environmental and social mitigation measures, this will be conducted separately.

For reference, I plan to drain all the world's inland saltwater lakes and seas after this one. They will just get subsequently easier to implement.

*-Other than the one direct justification that they will use the basin for.

  • $\begingroup$ So... How would it be done and why would they do it? Isn't that idea generation? $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Nov 24 '15 at 1:55
  • $\begingroup$ What would be the best use of a LOT of salt water? What would be the most effective way to undertake it? It could be idea-generation, I'll let y'all determine that (or assist in phrasing it another way); I think I will be able select a 'best answer' pretty easily, though. $\endgroup$ – Mikey Nov 24 '15 at 2:39

The easiest way to drain the Great Salt Lake is simply to cut off the inflow. The lake is only 33 feet deep; divert the Bear, Jordan, and Weber rivers for irrigation, and the lake should dry up within a year. If you want to speed things up, you can extend the intakes for the West Desert Pumping Project to spread the water over an additional 1300 square kilometers of salt flats.

There's not much economic use you can make of the water: it's far too salty for irrigation, and the mineral content is identical to that of the salt flats to the west -- and the salt flats are easier to work with.

  • $\begingroup$ I was going to go on a tangent about recoverable Magnesium, but this pretty much covers it. There's a fairly cost effective method of reverse osmosis processing that could make moderate quantities of drinkable water, but overall the big money would be in the 4.5 billion or so tons of salt. $\endgroup$ – Sean Boddy Nov 24 '15 at 4:55
  • $\begingroup$ The USSR did cut off inflow to the Aral sea - not to reclaim the land but to use the water for irrigating Cotton plants in a desert. This caused an ecological disaster. Google it. Draining the Great Salt Lake is quite possible but almost certainly an insane thing to do! $\endgroup$ – nigel222 Nov 24 '15 at 15:46

I am not a geography buff but I am from Israel. We had the "dead sea". Kind of a pond that has little inflow and little outflow. Prehistorically, the evaporation was faster than the Net Inflow and that made the water very rich in minerals. Those minerals are very, very lucrative. The dead sea is now being dried up for the minerals in the water. There's even a certain amount of gold in that water. A lot of phosphates that are a primary ingredient in fertilizers. The dead sea is currently a fraction of what it was before people had the technology to extract the minerals from it.

A big country would do that easily. With food prices going up, it could become economically feasible to do so.

  • $\begingroup$ I have also been there. The level is much, much lower now than it was only a few decades ago (there were tide marks above the road we drove down). I, unfortunately, didn't bring a swimsuit. $\endgroup$ – Draco18s no longer trusts SE Nov 25 '15 at 17:45

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