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April 1 Mono Lake level close to critically low threshold

April 1st, 2016 by Geoff, Executive Director

This morning 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 6378.11 feet above sea level.

Mono Lake is now just 13 inches above the ecologically precipitous 6377-foot elevation at which the nesting islands become landbridged, lake salinity hits new highs, air quality problems worsen, and stream delta habitat conditions degrade.

Measuring Mono Lake's April 1 elevation

DWP’s Steve Rich and Robbie Di Paolo from the Mono Lake Committee read the lake level gauge together this morning. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

With those concerns in mind, the State Water Board rules are more nuanced this year for determining whether or not DWP can export water to Los Angeles. Not only does the lake have to be above 6377 feet for today’s measurement, it also has to be forecast to stay above 6377 every day of the coming year.

This means that we are now awaiting the April and May snow surveys that are required to make those forecasts, so DWP’s export allotment is currently unknown. It could be zero, or it could be 4,500 acre feet, the same as last year.

Here at the Committee we don’t want to see the lake drop dangerously lower and we hope that measurements show enough snow in the mountains to keep the lake above 6377 feet. Given what we know about the winter so far, it’s going to be a close call.

One thing is clear on this April 1 though—water exports cannot begin until the lake forecasting work is completed in May. So it’s no surprise that we became quite concerned in recent weeks when DWP scheduled exports to begin April 1. The Committee responded swiftly. We prepared a letter to the State Water Board to request their intervention. But we didn’t have to send it, because we also engaged DWP on our own. We escalated the urgent matter through multiple layers of management at DWP. After our attorneys spoke to DWP attorneys, DWP agreed that exports should not and would not begin on April 1.

Thanks to Committee members and Mono Lake supporters everywhere, the carefully crafted rules that protect Mono Lake while providing water to Los Angeles are being followed. And they are critical because, as today’s lake level reading demonstrates, the impacts of the drought are far from over at Mono Lake.

Reading Mono Lake's April 1 lake level with DWP staff

Measuring the surface elevation of Mono Lake is required to determine the annual allocation of water for export to Los Angeles. Photo by Geoff McQuilkin.

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24 Responses to “April 1 Mono Lake level close to critically low threshold”

  1. avatar Danielle Dowers Says:

    Thank you for your vigilance and continuing good work on this.

  2. avatar Mary Zboralske Says:

    thank you for your care and concern . Let’s hope the show gods have been good to you and a ll of California

  3. avatar Vincent Goetz Says:

    That is wonderful after four years of drought, and almost 100 years of water management by a very thirsty city.

    David would be quite happy to see what has happened over the years.

  4. avatar Jon Says:

    It appears “NATURE” is making the adjustments to our behavior that “NATURE” has to take. HMMMMM??? Will we be able to adjust our behavior along with “NATURE”. “WATER” the matter?? Climate change is on the move. Will L.A. and California be able to adjust??? The wild life of streams and rivers get the same rain &snow fall as all living creatures. Only we disregard the “WHOLE PICTURE”! Thank you for standing guard for Mono Lake!!!!! Jon

  5. avatar Liliane Gersh Says:

    It is great how alert you are! The lake and all of the life that is connected to it need people like you, intelligent and caring.
    Thank you!

  6. avatar Penny Otwell Says:

    Thank you MLC for appropriately responding to DWP April 1 date to start taking our water. The drought continues in the Eastern Sierra. I am proud of our efforts to save Mono Lake and the birds.

  7. avatar carol wiebe Says:

    beverly hills stays GREEN..los angeles, depending where you live, stays green…water flows freely even with a song through their gutters.

  8. avatar Curt Sanders Says:

    Excellent work Committee! Thank you for your decisive action. The birds, the ecosystems of this amazing lake, as well all of us who love this Basin are very appreciative! Keep up your exceptional work!

  9. avatar Joe Blommer Says:

    That’s why you are here. Thank you!

  10. avatar Joy Zimnavoda Says:

    As always, grateful for your attention, knowledge, informing,- all that goes with your commitment. As always, respect and appreciate all that you do to raise awareness including updates with narratives, data and photos, as well as your suggestions and recommendations, fund-raising – and all else for Mono Lake to survive and survive well for these times, for all times. Thank you.

  11. avatar Shirley Caputo Says:

    Your vigilance is appreciated!

  12. avatar Dean Says:

    thanks for the update. I’ll arrive in May for a looksee with the snow melt.

  13. avatar robert Atkins Says:

    Well done; you stand between survival at the Lake and disaster!

  14. avatar Pat Robertson Says:

    Thank you for your vigilance and careful tending of ML. Much appreciated.

  15. avatar Ernest Isaacs Says:

    What has moved me over the years has been non-confrontational, “let’s work together on saving the Lake” attitude of the MLC. And this in the face of the dogged resistance of the LA DWP.

  16. avatar Bill Wainwright Says:

    You would think that the Los Angeles water people would as a matter of course, goodwill and stewardship be on top of the effect their proposed drawings would have on Mono Lake water levels. It’s nothing new to them that their drawings are now subject to State-mandated controls. Apparently, like a burglar in the dark, they think they can get an advantage when someone may not be looking. Too bad they can’t be counted on to be proactively responsible. Thanks to our Committee and Supporters for being on the alert to keep ’em honest!

  17. avatar stephanie brown Says:


  18. avatar Igor Vorobyoff Says:

    Thank you Mono Lake Committee for your unceasing vigilance.

  19. avatar Janet Shott Says:

    Thank you so very much for including us for your reports. Please keep up the good work. “Down below” is also trying to save. (Restrictions in place on all watering = just two times a week usage.)

  20. avatar Gerald Orcholski Says:

    I thought with all the snow and rain in the north over the winter months that the snow level in the Sierras was at a good level.

  21. avatar Linda Barnes Says:

    I’m so glad you are so on top of saving all the birds,animals,and all the wonderful memories of over 40 years of loving Mono Lake. I hope more people become donors to keep it going. God bless Mono Lake

  22. avatar David Lauritzen Says:

    I’m absolutely stunned and disbelieving that DWP could think they could get away with starting diversions April 1 and ignore the rules!?! Thank you MLC for your continued vigilance!

  23. avatar Holly Rice Says:

    I’m impressed as always for your skillful and attentive monitoring of Mono Lake. Thank you for your brilliant stewardship!

  24. avatar Rita H Says:

    Thanks again and again for Mono Committee!!!