Mono Lake is an inland sea sitting near the border of the Nevada state line, east of Yosemite National Park. It was the target of a major environmental battle between the 1970s and the 1990s.
The lake has a surface area of about 70 square miles, is the second largest lake in California and one of the oldest in North America. Its salty water occupies former volcanic craters and is highly alkaline.
Los Angeles began diverting water from Mono Lake tributaries in the 1940s, extending the Los Angeles Aqueduct from the Owens Valley. Forty years later, the water level of the lake had dropped more than 40 feet to threaten wildlife (shrimp and birds) and uncover stretches of the lake bed, which in dust storms stirs up toxic dust.
In 1983, the California Supreme Court held the public trust doctrine applied to Los Angeles’ rights to divert water from Mono Lake’s feeder streams. In 1991, a superior court halted LADWP’s water exports. Restoration is underway to increase the water level by 20 feet by 2021.
When dust storms began rising off the dry bed of Owens Lake, authorities in the Eastern Sierra blamed Los Angeles’ thirst. The city had, after all, drained the lake in the 1920s to serve its faucets. Now, as dust kicks up from Mono Lake, authorities in the Eastern Sierra are once again blaming that water-craving metropolis about 350 miles to the south. But this time, they’re also blaming climate change.
In April, once a new runoff year (April 1 to March 31) has begun, the Mono Lake Committee forecasts what Mono Lake’s level is likely to do over the next year. And the answer? According to our forecast, Mono Lake is likely to drop a little less than a foot.
In 1862, Mark Twain traveled to Mono Lake, the vast, ancient landmark east of Yosemite National Park famous for its craggy limestone rock formations. Though he nearly drowned trying to cross the 11-mile-long lake in a rowboat during a storm, the author remained captivated by its odd features, especially the swarms of tiny black flies that lined the shore and their unusual behavior.
California’s four-year drought has lowered Mono Lake more than five feet. … In this case, another dry winter that pushes the state into a fifth drought year would push new and potentially contentious Mono Lake management issues to the forefront.
In recent months, the Department of Water and Power has reduced its take from Mono’s tributaries by more than two-thirds. Still, the 1-million-year-old lake is within two feet of the level that state officials say threatens the alpine ecosystem at the base of the eastern Sierra Nevada.
For residents and regular visitors, the expanded exposed lakebed, growing landbridge, and dramatically changing topography of key visitation sites are hard to miss. While less immediately visible, the effects of the drought on the streams of the Mono Basin are no less severe.
A week ago, at mid-month, we excitedly were tallying up the already-record-making Mono Basin precipitation totals for May and the rise in Mono Lake. Who would have thought that it would keep raining and snowing—especially during the driest year of one of the worst droughts on record?
Based on precipitation, snowpack, and recent runoff, the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP) has run its forecasting equations and issued its runoff forecast: 19% of average runoff is expected for April–September, and 25% over the next year—assuming median precipitation falls. 2015 April–September runoff is not only going to be less than 1977, the driest year on record—it is expected to be less than half of 1977’s runoff.
This morning [April 1] Mono Lake Committee staff met with Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP) personnel to conduct the official annual April 1 reading of the lake level together. The consensus: Mono Lake stands at 6379.01 feet above sea level. The lake has declined to a level at which water exports to Los Angeles are, by the terms of the State Water Board’s rules, automatically reduced by 70%.
Benett Kessler, founder and owner of Sierra Wave Media and a trusted and respected Eastern Sierra journalist, passed away on January 2 after a three-year battle with cancer. … When we were making The Mono Lake Story film several years ago, Benett provided us with historic footage of an early interview she conducted with Committee co-founder David Gaines …
If you weren’t able to attend the Mono Lake @ 20: Past, Present, Future symposium in Sacramento last month, you can now watch all the sessions online from the comfort of your own laptop. You can stream the video footage from the State Water Resources Control Board website.
The UC Berkeley School of Law along with stakeholders in Mono Lake will convene a symposium in Sacramento on Nov. 17 to mark the 20th anniversary of the State Water Resources Control Board’s decision to integrate the Water Code, Fish and Game Code and the common law of public trust to protect the lake and its tributary creeks.
Water nerds unite! You’re not going to want to miss this opportunity: the Mono Lake at 20: Past, Present, and Future symposium on November 17, 2014, in Sacramento, California. … Co-sponsors of the event: UC Berkeley School of Law’s Center for Law, Energy & the Environment; UC Berkeley College of Natural Resources; the Water Education Foundation; Mono Lake Committee; California Trout; and the Water and Power Law Group.
This 25-minute documentary-style DVD, developed in partnership with the California Department of Water Resources, provides an excellent overview of climate change and how it is already affecting California. The DVD also explains what scientists anticipate in the future related to sea level rise and precipitation/runoff changes and explores the efforts that are underway to plan and adapt to climate.
The 28-page Layperson’s Guide to Water Rights Law, recognized as the most thorough explanation of California water rights law available to non-lawyers, traces the authority for water flowing in a stream or reservoir, from a faucet or into an irrigation ditch through the complex web of California water rights.
The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to California Water provides an excellent overview of the history of water development and use in California. It includes sections on flood management; the state, federal and Colorado River delivery systems; Delta issues; water rights; environmental issues; water quality; and options for stretching the water supply such as water marketing and conjunctive use.
A new look for our most popular product! And it’s the perfect gift for the water wonk in your life.
Our 24×36 inch California Water Map is widely known for being the definitive poster that shows the integral role water plays in the state. On this updated version, it is easier to see California’s natural waterways and man-made reservoirs and aqueducts – including federally, state and locally funded projects – the wild and scenic rivers system, and natural lakes. The map features beautiful photos of California’s natural environment, rivers, water projects, wildlife, and urban and agricultural uses and the text focuses on key issues: water supply, water use, water projects, the Delta, wild and scenic rivers and the Colorado River.
Mono Lake is an inland sea located east of Yosemite National Park near the Nevada border. It became the focus of a major environmental battle from the 1970s to the 1990s.
The lake has a surface area of about 70 square miles and is the second largest lake in California and one of the oldest in North America. Its salty waters occupy former volcanic craters. The old volcanoes contribute to the geology of the lake basin, which includes sulfates, salt and carbonates.
They are remnants of another time. A time when the Southwest’s climate was much cooler and probably wetter, and large lakes covered vast tracts of land in Nevada, Utah, southeastern Oregon and California’s Eastern Sierra. Beginning some 14,000 years ago, the region’s climate grew warmer and drier, shrinking these lakes’ shorelines and leaving behind an arid landscape dotted with isolated bodies of water including Pyramid Lake, Mono Lake and the Great Salt Lake.
This issue of Western Water examines the challenges facing state, federal and tribal officials and other stakeholders as they work to manage terminal lakes. It includes background information on the formation of these lakes, and overviews of the water quality, habitat and political issues surrounding these distinctive bodies of water. Much of the information in this article originated at the September 2004 StateManagement Issues at Terminal Water Bodies/Closed Basins conference.