Mono Lake is a salt water lake in California that has been used as a water source for Los Angeles since 1941. But things have changed for this lake and its habitat, thanks to conservationists.
The Problem — The problem that brought Mono Lake to the attention of the public came from the fact that water levels were not being sustained as it was being used for a water source. Waters from Owens River and other tributaries were diverted in 1941 from Mono Lake before the water could enter it. As water was taken from the lake, the evaporation levels could not compete with its lack of renewal.
This problem was discovered in 1976 by a graduate student of the University of California named David Gaines. He was the main one responsible for alerting others to this problem. Two years later, he formed the Mono Lake Committee to fight for the lake’s fading existence.
The Ecosystem — Mono Lake is known to have a very productive ecosystem. Since the lake is high in salt content, it has no fish. An attempt to stock the lake failed by the California Department of Fish and Game.
The lake is famous for its Lake Mono brine shrimp, though. This tiny type of shrimp cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Although this shrimp is not a kind that humans eat, it is a favorite for the birds. Migration patterns for birds lead them to this lake also, giving Mono Lake a total of about 2 million feathered friends that inhabit the lake at least part of the year. So when water was removed from this environment, the inhabitants suffered the most.
A small land mass in the center of the lake, known as Negit Island, was robbed of so much water that it became a peninsula. This causes birds’ nests to be more exposed and made it easier for coyotes to find and destroy them. Because of this, nesting stopped in that area and forced the birds to go elsewhere.
The Results — Since that time, after years of conservationist work, the California State Water Resources Control Board ordered that Mono Lake and its sources be protected in 1994. Since that order, the lake has been brought back nearly to its original depth when the siphoning first took place, at almost 6,400 feet (1,950 meters). The lake has also gone from having 90,000 acre-feet being taken from it each year, to only 16,000 acre-feet.
It has not been easy for the consumers of this water, but with energy efficient appliances that reduce water use, better methods of watering grass, and water-saving bathrooms, they have been able to succeed in bringing Mono Lake back.