April 1, 2024 Mono Lake level triggers important choice for DWP 

Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP) and Mono Lake Committee staff met this morning at the shore of Mono Lake to conduct the annual joint reading of the surface elevation of Mono Lake.  

The consensus is that the lake stands at 6,383.70 feet above mean sea level which means that Mono Lake is only halfway to the 6,392-foot elevation level mandated by the California State Water Resources Control Board 30 years ago to resolve ecological, wildlife, economic, Tribal, public trust, and air quality harms caused by the lowering of Mono Lake. 

Today’s lake level triggers an important choice for DWP: Will the Department choose a nearly fourfold increase in diversions (16,000 acre-feet), or will it choose to leave exports unchanged (4,500 acre-feet) and preserve the lake level gains of the record-wet winter of 2023? 

The lake level of 6,383.70 feet activates State Water Board rules that provide DWP “may divert up to 16,000 AF of water” over the next twelve months. LADWP is not required to take the maximum amount of water in any year, and this year can choose to leave exports unchanged. 

After a record-wet 2023, this winter’s above average rainfall in Los Angeles, and record amounts of local stormwater capture, now is an important opportunity to exercise that flexibility. 

If DWP chooses to not increase its diversions this year, gains in Mono Lake level will be preserved. In fact, this choice may well make the difference between a stable and declining lake level in 2024. This choice would also mean that DWP continues to divert the same amount of water that it has for the past two years. 

This year is an important moment to affirm the historic promise made by Los Angeles to protect Mono Lake by allowing the level of the lake to recover to the Public Trust protection level of 6,392 feet, restoring Mono Lake’s health, its tributary streams and its internationally significant ecological, cultural, scenic, wildlife and recreation resources. 

Accordingly, the Mono Lake Committee delivered an official request that DWP not increase water exports from the Mono Basin this year, and that this commitment be reflected in DWP’s May 15 Mono Basin Annual Operations Plan. 

On March 28, 2024 the Mono Lake Committee delivered a letter to Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass asking that her administration direct the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to not increase its diversions from the Mono Basin this year. The letter was signed by over 30 Los Angeles-based conservation and environmental justice leaders representing tens of thousands of Angelenos.

From left to right, Robbie Di Paolo and Maureen McGlinchy from the Mono Lake Committee with Steve Rich of DWP after reaching consensus that lake level on April 1, 2024 is 6383.70 feet above sea level. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

Top photo by Bartshe Miller.