Topic: Mono Lake

Overview

Mono Lake

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.

Aquafornia news Mono Lake Committee

Blog: Surface water exports curtailed by low Grant Lake Reservoir storage

During the 2021 runoff year (April 1, 2021–March 31, 2022), the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP) was allowed to export up to 16,000 acre-feet of stream diversions from the Mono Basin because Mono Lake was above 6380 feet above sea level on April 1, 2021. Yet, only 13,300 acre-feet of water was taken, consistent with the low reservoir requirements in DWP’s water licenses, which were amended last year by the California State Water Resources Control Board. The new licenses contain an overall minimum level of 11,500 acre-feet of storage for Grant Lake Reservoir, with a minimum of 20,000 acre-feet for July–September. 

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Aquafornia news Public News Service

Water wars court case to decide fate of Long Valley in rural Mono County

Conservation groups are speaking out in support of water rights in rural Mono County, saying thirsty Los Angeles is endangering wildlife, ranching and tourism. All parties are awaiting the judge’s decision after a recent hearing, where the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) argued it has the right to cut off water ranchers use to irrigate Long Valley and Little Round Valley for cattle grazing near the Crowley Lake Reservoir. Wendy Schneider, executive director of the nonprofit Friends of the Inyo, said the DWP bought up water rights 100 years ago, but the Eastern Sierra is getting the short end of the stick.

Video

A Climate of Change: Water Adaptation Strategies

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.

Publication

Layperson’s Guide to Water Rights Law
Updated 2020

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.

Publication

Layperson’s Guide to California Water
Updated 2021

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. New in this 10th edition of the guide is a section on the human need for water. 

Maps & Posters California Water Bundle

California Water Map
Updated December 2016

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.

Aquapedia background California Water Map Layperson's Guide to California Water

Pacific Flyway

The Pacific Flyway is one of four major North American migration routes for birds, especially waterfowl, and extends from Alaska and Canada, through California, to Mexico and South America. Each year, birds follow ancestral patterns as they travel the flyway on their annual north-south migration. Along the way, they need stopover sites such as wetlands with suitable habitat and food supplies. In California, 90 percent of historic wetlands have been lost.

Aquapedia background Lakes Public Trust Doctrine

Mono Lake

Mono Lake, on the east side of the Sierra Nevada.

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.

Western Water Excerpt Sue McClurgRita Schmidt Sudman

Remnants of the Past: Management Challenges of Terminal Lakes
Jan/Feb 2005

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.

Western Water Magazine

Remnants of the Past: Management Challenges of Terminal Lakes
January/February 2005

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.