Topic: Mono Lake


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 St George News

Lawsuit argues that Utah has failed to address shrinking Great Salt Lake

Conservation and community groups have filed a lawsuit against Utah for what they claim is the state’s failure to ensure enough water gets to the Great Salt Lake, to avoid what they call an “ecological collapse.” The lawsuit seeks a court order requiring Utah to let more water reach the largest natural lake in the Western Hemisphere. John Leshy, professor emeritus of law at the University of California-San Francisco, said the lake is a “public trust” resource per the state’s constitution. He added the court will examine what the designation means when it comes to managing and protecting it. Back in the 1970s, the California Supreme Court stepped in to protect Mono Lake from its water being diverted to Los Angeles utilizing the Public Trust Doctrine. Leshy argued it could set a strong precedent in Utah.

Aquafornia news Salt Lake Tribune

Groups sue Utah, trying to save Great Salt Lake with the public trust doctrine

Environmental groups have filed a lawsuit to save the Great Salt Lake as its water continues receding and its lakebed blows dust. The case uses a legal concept that recently stifled plans to turn Utah Lake into a private island development and, years ago, stopped a salty lake from getting sucked dry in California. A complaint filed in 3rd District Court on Wednesday invokes the public trust doctrine, claiming the Utah Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has failed in its duty to protect the largest saline ecosystem in the Western Hemisphere for the benefit of its residents. While lawmakers and resource managers have taken steps in recent years to bolster the imperiled Great Salt Lake and the unique ecology it supports, they must take more drastic steps to reduce Utahns’ overconsumption of water, the suit argues.

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Aquafornia news State Water Resources Control Board

News release: Board provides $152,000 to ensure safe drinking water for Utu Utu Gwaitu Paiute Tribe in Mono County

Working with federal partners, the State Water Resources Control Board has committed more than $152,000 from California’s Safe and Affordable Funding for Equity and Resilience (SAFER) drinking water program to support operational assistance and an interim solution for the Utu Utu Gwaitu Paiute Tribe in Mono County to address elevated arsenic in wells on the Benton Reservation. The SAFER funding will ensure the Tribe has access to safe and affordable drinking water while a long-term solution is developed through a well-drilling and treatment project lead by the Indian Health Service (IHS) with possible additional funding from federal partners.


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.


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 California Water Map

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.