Mono Lake in California has had many fluctuations in size. Drought conditions lower the water level. And for decades in the 20th century the City of Los Angeles diverted fresh water flows into the lake, which steadily reduced its size and lowered its shoreline. Mono’s exposed tufa towers show what happens under the lake’s alkaline waters.
The region of the Mono Lake is a large volcanic basin with three volcanic formations around the Mono waters. And the lake shoreline is peppered with fresh water springs. The springs, which contain calcium, bubble up through the lake’s waters which are carbonate rich. The combination forms whitish limestone deposits that over time become the tufa towers seen around the lake.
Los Angeles water diversions from Mono Lake were so great that the ecosystem of the lake was imperiled. A landmark court case was launched by the Mono Lake Committee and the Audubon Society against Los Angeles Water and Power. Conservationists prevailed to protect water levels and diversions have been reduced. The lake is still below historic levels and California’s years long drought has taken its toll. During windy dry periods alkaline dust storms can significantly degrade air quality.