GNF - Mono Lake

Mono Lake – California, USA


Background Mono Lake

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.

Only the small species of brine shrimp (Artemia salina) and alkali flies (Ephydra hians) occur in large numbers and are the food resource for many birds, resting on their way to South America or the tropics at Mono Lake. Among the 100 bird species are American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana), Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus), Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius) and Black-necked Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis). In late summer, thousands of Wilson''s Phalarope (Steganopus tricolor) and Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus) rest at Mono Lake. Even the California Gull (Larus californicus) breeds at Mono Lake.

January 2015

Mono Lake is one of the 100 Greenest Holiday Destinations world-wide. Sustainable Destinations Global Top 100

 Canoeing on Mono Lake
 Tufa at and in the Mono Lake
 Mono Lake Committee
 Mono Lake with impressive gulls

Project measures Mono Lake

The Mono Lake Committee in Lee Vining, our Californian partner organisation, has succeeded in successfully negotiating with the City of Los Angeles a compromise solution for the usage of the water. In September 1994, regulations for the protection of Mono Lake and its tributaries became effective. Since then, the water level increases continuously and the salt content declines accordingly.


In 2008, the salinity decreased to 79.8 g/l. The water of Mono Lake is strongly alkaline, it has a pH value of 10. As Mono Lake is far saltier than the ocean (average salt content of 31.5 g/l) no fish species live in Mono Lake.

 Uferlandschaft am Mono Lake


Partner Organisation Mono Lake


Mono Lake Committee

Contact persons: Frances Spivy-Weber, Geoff McQuilkin

PO Box 29

Corner of Highway 395 & Third Street

Lee Vining, CA 93541, USA

Phone: + 1 760 647 6595

Fax: + 1 760 647 6377



 Logo Mono Lake Committee

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