Mono Lake protected by State in drought times

monolake2.jpgAs the Owens Valley scrambles for some kind of protection in the apparent drought, Mono Lake protectors have some good news – definite terms in a State Water License for the Department of Water and Power.

Geoff McQuilkin, Executive Director of the Mono Lake Committee, said the license spells out that both sides can read the lake level and accordingly the license tells an allowed amount of water export for DWP. Said McQuilkin, “There is no room for debate. This has always been followed.”

In spite of protections, the Mono Lake Director called the drought “depressing.” He said the level of Mono Lake is going down. Said McQuilkin, “This will be the third year of loss.” He said the lake now sits at 6380.5 feet above sea level. According to the license, DWP water exports are cut back when the lake level goes below 6380 feet.

McQuilkin said if the lake level is above 6380 feet, DWP can export 16,000 acre feet for the year. If the level goes below that, the export drops to 4,500 acre feet. The goal of a State Order and reduced exports from the Mono Basin is a long-term average lake level of 6392 feet. McQuilkin said the Committee has not lost faith. He said they see the level go up in wet years.

The recently signed agreement between DWP and the Committee says DWP will make more environmental improvements in the basin and after that is done will get a one-time extra 12,000 acre feet of water. McQuilkin said that’s four or five years out.

What if DWP declared a municipal emergency and tried to break the water license? McQuilkin said he thinks they would be unsuccessful. He said, “We would certainly oppose it. That would enter a risk zone and air quality issues.”


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17 Responses to Mono Lake protected by State in drought times

  1. Ken Warner January 28, 2014 at 11:49 am #

    Mono Lake Committee: Hey, DWP. Mono Lake is too low.
    DWP: Oops. We’ll stop taking too much water real soon now — sorry.
    MLC: But, but…
    DWP: Not to worry. We’ll do some environmental improvements just as soon as we can…
    MLC: But, but…
    DWP: You’ve got a real nice lake here. Wouldn’t want anything to happen to it.
    It will rain soon. Go back to sleep….

    • Whine and Dine January 29, 2014 at 6:27 am #

      Somehow I just knew somebody would be whining about what’s going on in Mono County. Especially if the whiner is from Inyo County. : >

      • Philip Anaya January 29, 2014 at 4:37 pm #

        What happens in Mono and Inyo Counties happens in the Eastern Sierra and LADWP exports water resources from the Eastern Sierra. Mono and Inyo County need to be connected by more than the Aqueduct and Highway 395 and should without fail, always support one other.

  2. Mongo The Idiot January 28, 2014 at 12:19 pm #

    If this is true…
    Mono Lake protected by State in drought times,
    Then this is true…
    Owens Lake protected by State in drought times.

    • Desert Tortoise January 29, 2014 at 11:36 am #

      The state license that protects Mono Lake is specific to Mono Lake. Owens Lake has no such license protecting it.

  3. Desert Tortoise January 28, 2014 at 1:17 pm #

    Air quality aside, what happens if coyotes can get at gull rookeries on the islands due to the level of the lake dropping to the point where the islands become connected to the shore? That should not be allowed to happen.

    • Benett Kessler January 28, 2014 at 1:24 pm #

      I don’t believe that can happen re: export now. Years-long drought could do it naturally, but in the past use of dynamite has broken up any land bridge.

  4. mk January 28, 2014 at 1:33 pm #

    Sounds like LA can get water if they need to regardless of agreements.
    I think it is time that we as eastern sierra residents are concerned lobby for those folks in LA to get rid of their expansive green lawns.

    • Mongo The Idiot January 28, 2014 at 3:22 pm #

      Are LA lawns protected by the state in times of drought?

      • Desert Tortoise January 28, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

        Still wringing that wet hankie Mongo? LA has a water rationing ordinance that limits the days you are permitted to water and the number of minutes per day you may water on your assigned days.

        Consider that LA uses less than 125 gallons per day per person while Mono County uses over 450, and that 85% of the developed fresh water used by Southern California is owned by Imperial Irrigation District to water lettuce in the desert using unlined sand ditches. Want to save some water? IID wastes more than LA uses.

        • Mongo The Idiot January 29, 2014 at 10:43 am #

          DT Comment is dis-information;
          LA aqueduct water is distributed and sold to many So. Cal communities outside LA City.

          Your figures are deceptive because you are looking at gross usage numbers for Owens based on a population of about 20,000 which includes agriculture.
          LA’s pop is at 3.85 million and there is virtually no ag.
          You are not comparing apples to apples or seeking solutions.

          I say Metropolitan Water District should create an educational “Fill Owens Lake” campaign that involves voluntary reduction of lawns and usage by customers with their bills remaining the same and the surplus being returned to Owens Lake and The OV aquifer to insure the ecological sustainability of the water source.
          I have turned my sprinklers off saving about 30,000 gallons of water a year.
          My neighbors on both sides have just put in new lawns.

          Do you have any answers to the problem Tortoise? Piling negativity on top of an already tremendous problem just makes things worse; is that what you want?

          • Water,Mocassin January 29, 2014 at 7:38 pm #

            Problem is that Owens Lake is a salt lake with no outlet that last overflowed around 2000 years ago. Assuming lake levels were relatively stable when white settlers arrived, as some say, then inflow to the lake equaled evaporation. Even if all the natural watershed was returned to lake, it would never fill. We may have to wait until the end of the next ice age for the lake to return.

            Maybe Owens Lake mitigation water should have been used to protect Mono Lake and come up with another way to stop dust. It’s all second guessing now, and some things you can never take back.

        • mk January 29, 2014 at 11:12 am #

          Tortoise ,
          where do you get your numbers from?
          Mono county person uses 450 gallons.
          and LA only 125

          Those numbers are a preposterous as they sound. All I know my family uses far less than 50 gallons. i just looked at the bill

  5. Geoff, Mono Lake Committee January 29, 2014 at 9:44 am #

    Benett has it right about the water rules that protect Mono Lake in tough drought times like these. Skepticism about DWP’s interests when it comes to water in the Eastern Sierra is certainly warranted, as the comments here show, but the water export situation at Mono Lake is different than in the Owens Valley, thanks to the long, successful, and ongoing campaign to protect Mono Lake.

    DWP does not get to decide how much water it takes from the Mono Basin. The State Water Resources Control Board has done that job, and DWP’s legal licenses to divert water are designed to protect Mono Lake at an ecologically sound level. DWP has complied with the state export rules since they were issued in 1994, but if a violation were to happen then fines, penalties, and diversion cutbacks to return excess exports would be the result (not to mention substantial public protest). Here at the Committee we’re actively tracking DWP compliance with the requirements for stream flows, lake level, and exports every day. Plus we’ll keep the snow dances going for the rest of the winter–every storm means a lot in this drought year.

    • MK January 29, 2014 at 10:37 pm #

      Thanks for your reply. I realize you are closer to what goes on than most of us here.
      I do not trust DWP and the committee should deal with caution. DWP has made it very clear what their intentions are. They can easily take this to court if they think they need the water. DWP have an endless supply of rate payer money. They will use it if LA starts to go dry.

      Heed the caution.


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