California's famed Mono Lake on shaky ground with drought

July 31, 2015, 10:49 a.m.

As the drought in California continues to worsen, concern is bubbling up over how to protect wildlife and also use the water left in lakes and reservoirs for people. The L.A. Times reports: "In recent months, the Department of Water and Power has reduced its take from [Lake] Mono's tributaries by more than two-thirds. Still, the 1-million-year-old lake is within two feet of the level that state officials say threatens the alpine ecosystem at the base of the eastern Sierra Nevada."

If rain doesn't begin to replenish the lake by April of next year, diversions for human use will cease to protect the wildlife and habitat surrounding the lake, famed for its tufa towers.

Any further drop in water level is a frightening prospect for biologists concerned about the well being of the birds that nest on Negit Island in the middle of the lake. The lower the water drops, the easier it is for coyotes to get out to the island. In 1979, water levels dropped so low that a land bridge leading out to the island broke the surface, and coyotes devastated the nests of gulls. It took 20 years for the birds to return to the island to nest.

As far as solutions go, all anyone can hope for is that California's record-setting drought finally breaks.

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Jaymi Heimbuch is a writer and photographer at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

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