The Mono Lake and its surrounding catchment area form a unique region in California. Sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata), Jeffrey pines, volcanoes, tufa towers, gulls, grebes, brine shrimp, alkali flies, freshwater streams and alkaline water characterise an incredible landscape nestled amidst the high peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Great Basin Desert. It is also one of the most productive ecosystems in California.
The Mono Lake is located in a 40 km wide desert basin, about 2,000 m above sea level, on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Its surface ranges between 150 and 190 sq. km, depending on the water level; its average depth is 43 m.
As the Mono Lake has no outlet to the ocean, dissolved salts remain in the lake and raise the water’s pH levels and salt concentration. The insatiable thirst of the people living in Los Angeles, 300 miles south of Mono Lake, led to an acceleration of the salinisation process. Since 1941, four of the five rivers, flowing in the Mono Lake, were diverted into the water supply system of the city. The consequences for the lake were disastrous: its salinity doubled to 99 g/l in 1982, the year in which the lake had its lowest water level, and its surface has decreased to one third of its original size.