SOLitude Lake Management Offers Tips to Prevent Toxic Algae Blooms
Lakes, ponds, and reservoirs can provide drinking water, irrigation, and space for year-round recreation, but it’s common for these waterbodies to develop algae blooms, especially during the heat of the summer. While many species of pond algae are harmless, Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) are becoming more prevalent as a result of increased nutrient runoff from commercial developments, industrial parks, livestock farms, and agricultural facilities.
When directly exposed to toxic algae species like cyanobacteria, which is often referred to as blue-green algae, humans and animals can experience liver and kidney toxicity, skin rashes, nervous system problems, respiratory complications, and even death. Toxic algae blooms are also known to cause undesirable tastes and odors in drinking water from affected waterbodies.
Harmful Algal Blooms can be a detriment not only to human and animal life but also to the ecosystem itself,” said David Ellison, Aquatic Biologist and Regional Director at SOLitude. “HABs often indicate that the affected lake, pond or reservoir is suffering from some kind of imbalance.
To limit the growth of HABs in your waterbody, SOLitude Lake Management, an industry leader in the lake, pond, reservoir and wetland management, fisheries management, and related environmental services for the United States, recommends the following ecologically sustainable measures to homeowners, ranch and landowners, golf courses and municipalities:
1. Improve your knowledge of HABs
The ability to distinguish between a Harmful Algal Bloom and non-toxic green algae is critical for the wellbeing of the aquatic ecosystem and those who enjoy it. If you suspect your lake or pond has a toxic bloom, look for soupy or oily scum on the surface of the water. Depending on the waterbody, the bloom may manifest in parallel streaks or clumped dots. Other blooms may look like spilled blue, green, or white paint or turn the water a bright “pea soup” green. If you’re unsure of the algae species in your water, contact a lake management professional.
2. Conduct regular water quality tests
Lake and pond owners and municipal water service leaders often wait until after a toxic algae bloom appears to conduct water quality tests, but a proactive testing program can help identify water quality impairments related to dissolved oxygen, pH or nutrient levels before they get out of hand. Over time, water quality data can be used to predict the onset of bloom and prevent its impact without closing the waterbody or interfering with irrigation or drinking water services.
3. Establish a beneficial buffer
Toxic algae blooms typically occur in lakes, ponds, and reservoirs containing excessive amounts of nitrogen and phosphorous. Fertilizers, sewage, animal waste, and organic sediment are all sources of these nutrients. To limit nutrient-rich runoff from entering your waterbody, consider cultivating a beneficial vegetative buffer 3-5 feet around the shoreline. An ideal buffer will contain sedges, rushes, and perennial plants that are native to your region.
4. Limit the impact of existing nutrients
Waterbodies already suffering from high nutrient levels should consider biological augmentation or the introduction of phosphorous-locking technologies. These strategies can help render excess nutrients inactive, meaning they will become permanently unfit to fuel nuisance algae growth.
5. Introduce an aeration system
When paired with other nutrient-limiting strategies, floating fountains and submersed diffused aerators can help consistently circulate warm stagnant water and facilitate the conversion of phosphorous and nitrogen to nutrient forms that do not sustain toxic algae as food. Lake and pond aeration also helps improve other water quality parameters that support the growth of healthy green phytoplankton.
6. Consider a proactive management plan
In order to sustainably restore a lake, pond, or reservoir with a toxic algae bloom, immediate action must take place, followed by continued water monitoring and maintenance. A proactive plan that includes professional water quality testing, buffer management, aeration, nutrient remediation, and sediment removal can help prevent further developments of toxic algae blooms while improving the natural balance, beauty, and lifespan of the aquatic environment. If you suspect that your lake, pond, or drinking water reservoir is experiencing a toxic algae bloom, immediately reach out to an experienced lake and pond management company in your area or call 888-480-LAKE for a professional referral.