Saving Mono Lake: Lessons Learned for CA Watersheds, Nov. 17

Contact: Michael Kiparsky |

Mono Lake at 20: Past, Present, Future 

ATTENTION: Reporters covering science, environment, water, law

WHAT: A symposium and live webcast held on the 20th anniversary of a landmark decision to save Mono Lake and its tributaries in California’s Eastern Sierra. What are the lessons learned from the unprecedented effort to restore one of the state’s iconic ecosystems? How can California expand restoration efforts to other rivers and streams depleted by overuse, while balancing the state’s competing needs for water? Speakers and panelists will describe the legal actions that protected Mono Lake and discuss how the state can take a similar approach to save watersheds in the Central Valley and beyond.

WHEN: Monday, Nov. 17, 8:00 a.m.—5:30p.m. followed by a reception.

WHERE: Byron Sher Auditorium, CalEPA Headquarters, Sacramento, CA

WHO: Speakers and panelists include Felicia Marcus, chair, State Water Resources Control Board; Geoffrey McQuilkin, exec.dir., Mono Lake Committee; Lester Snow, exec. dir., California Water Foundation; Tim Quinn, exec.dir., Association of California Water Agencies; and Tom Birmingham, general counsel of the Westlands Water District. For a full list of speakers, go here.

CO-SPONSORS: UC Berkeley School of Law’s Center for Law, Energy & the Environment; UC Berkeley College of Natural Resources; Water Education Foundation; Mono Lake Committee; California Trout; and Water and Power Law Group. 

ABOUT MONO LAKE: In 1941, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) began diverting Mono Lake’s tributary streams to meet the city’s growing water demands. Deprived of its freshwater sources, the volume of Mono Lake halved, and its salinity doubled. The entire ecosystem—including fisheries and wetlands—began to collapse. Eventually, a coalition of environmentalists, advocates, lawyers and others negotiated, litigated, and lobbied for Mono Lake’s protection.

In 1994, following an order of the California Supreme Court, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWCB) issued a landmark ruling, known as Decision 1631, to protect the lake and its tributaries for the public good. It was the first decision in the state’s history to integrate the Water Code, Fish and Game Code, and the common law of public trust to address water diversion issues.

Twenty years later, the state still grapples with balancing the water needs of farmers, residents, and businesses, while protecting California’s natural habitats and ecosystems. The Mono Lake 20 symposium will bring together Industry leaders, agency regulators and environmental advocates to share various perspectives and discuss feasible solutions. 

Media who wish to attend the one-day symposium should contact Michael Kiparsky at or (510) 643-6044. The proceedings will also be available live via webcast on the day of the event.