When in doubt, stay out: Nevada’s drought could worsen outbreaks of toxic algae

Nevada’s drought could worsen outbreaks of toxic algae
Published: Jul. 5, 2022 at 10:28 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - As many of us are enjoying water activities this summer, scientists are warning about the potential for harmful algal blooms.

When temperatures climb and the summer sun beats down, conditions are ripe for the flourishing of toxic algae.

The bright, blue-green scum is common during this season, but experts say climate change is escalating outbreaks and increasing the level of toxicity.

“The water evaporates and then it gets smaller, the nutrient load increases gives the cyanobacteria more to eat,” said Lucia Ross, chief marketing officer at BlueGreen Water Technologies, a tech company that provides solutions to toxic algae blooms. “It forms a mat. That mat of cyanobacteria increases the heat in that water body, and it gets in a cycle, a loop.”

Ross explains in our area wildfires add another layer.

“The nutrients in the ash, the nutrients in the smoke and then that blankets the water... you have global warming and that’s raising the temperature of the water but then the wildfires are also raising the temperature of the water, especially right around the surface area,” said Ross. “Just a helpful environment for cyanobacteria.”

Last week a warning sign was posted at Indian Creek Reservoir after concentrations of toxic algae exceeded the danger level. The Alpine County Public Health Department believes this is a consequence of last summer’s Tamarack Fire.

Exposure to cyanobacteria can cause a mild skin rash or serious gastrointestinal illness in humans and can be lethal for pets. Signs of harmful algae include rotten smell, paint-like consistency, and bright colors like green, white, brown, and red.

“We need to have more monitoring of water systems, using our satellite technology, really getting a handle on blooms before they start,” said Ross.

She adds toxic algae is like a bacterial infection in water that needs to be treated and believes legislation needs to be put in place.

To protect your family and pets this summer, check for advisories before heading to the lake and avoid contact with the water when warnings are posted. Most importantly, when in doubt, stay out.

The Nevada Division of Environmental Protection says it has not received any reports of harmful algae this year. Last month Regan, El Dorado and Kiva beaches in Tahoe reported outbreaks.

To report a suspected bloom, call 1-800-331-6337.

To report human illness, call the NV Department of Health and Human Services at 1-775-400-0333, and to report an animal illness, call the NV Department of Agriculture at 1-775-353-3709.

According to a press release, BlueGreen Water Technologies is the first and only company in the world to develop, obtain regulatory approval for, and commercialize a technology suite that reverses the effects of climate change in water bodies and drastically reduces greenhouse gas levels.

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