Feb. 14, 2023 (LOS ANGELES) — Today, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) announced that recent measurements taken at Mono Lake indicate that the lake level elevation is 6,379.3 feet above sea level, which is approximately two feet higher than its 2017 low of 6,377.5 feet when no emergency regulatory action was called for or taken. LADWP has also recently forecasted that recent snowfall in and around the Mono Basin will cause the lake level to rise approximately two more feet before the end of the year, ensuring the continued health of the Mono Basin ecosystem.
“Our hydrographers have confirmed that the Mono Lake level is the highest it has been in years – despite drought – and the snowpack from January will cause the lake level to rise even higher,” said Anselmo Collins, Senior Assistant General Manager, Water Systems at LADWP. “We’re confident and pleased that recent weather, along with LADWP’s responsible environmental stewardship, has assured that the Mono Basin ecosystem remains healthy.”
Mono Lake supports a healthy ecosystem for a variety of species, including brine shrimp and California gulls, both in its waters and on the islands and shores surrounding the lake. Additionally, due to LADWP’s significant investments, Mono Basin creeks have been restored, fish populations are thriving, and waterfowl habitats have been enhanced.
The Mono Lake Committee (MLC) has made false claims that nesting gulls on Negit Island in Mono Lake are at risk of coyote predation and is urging the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) to take emergency action to prohibit LADWP from exercising its water rights. In recent statements and publicity, MLC relied on a lake level measurement from the seasonal low point at the height of drought last year, which does not reflect today’s reality. Mono Lake’s water level is more than four feet above possible land exposure that would allow coyotes to potentially cross to Negit Island.
Thanks to requirements that the SWRCB established in 1994, coyotes would need to travel approximately four football fields’ worth of water four feet deep to reach nesting gull populations – a length and depth that will only increase as snowpack melts and fills into the lake. Furthermore, scientific evidence shows that nesting gull populations are correlated to food availability, not lake levels. LADWP is prepared to collaborate with MLC and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to continue its stewardship in the Mono Basin, but rejects any assertion that stream diversions should be cut on an emergency or other basis.
The City of Los Angeles utilizes its Mono Basin water rights to serve up to 200,000 Angelenos each year. MLC has acknowledged that if the City of Los Angeles were ordered to cease its diversions, it would only raise the lake level by approximately one inch. Intense statewide drought has meant that California’s other water sources – the State Water Project and Colorado River – are under heavy strain. In the last 40 years, Angelenos have reduced water use by 44% despite a population growth of more than one million, but no amount of conservation will make Los Angeles independent of vital imported water supplies that have already been reduced substantially.
LADWP continues to serve as an environmental steward of Mono Basin and the Mono Lake watershed while also protecting the health and well-being of the four million residents LADWP serves.