Harmful Algae Bloom Research? More Funding!

This terrific article by CNBC presents a nice summary of some issues pertaining to Harmful Algae Blooms (HAB) across the USA. At its end, it remarks that funding for HAB research has been cut over the past several years from $22 milion to $9 million.

If this were not true, it would be considered preposterous. After all, the total budget for the US Government in 2016 is $3,950,000,000,000,000 — of which $9,000,000 is being applied for HAB research.

Stuart FL Algae Bloom
Stuart FL Algae Bloom

Let’s look at these numbers again.


When the 12th largest body of water in the world, Lake Erie, and the 11 million people who rely on it for their water supply are dramatically and negatively affected on an annual basis by HAB outbreaks, this meager investment is clearly insufficient.

Consider that an estimated $6,000,000,000 will be spent on the presidential election alone … and you see the problem here.

According to this terrific report by Wood’s Hole Oceanographic Institution which is admittedly 20 years old, the annual cost of HAB in the USA THEN was about $50,000,000 year. That number is surely higher now … most likely markedly so.

The solutions for reducing HAB are out there. They cost money. It takes research.

A country with a budget such as our’s, with one-year presidential political campaigns that spend more than the money the National Basketball Association grosses in a year, can do much better.

Or HAB will only get worse.

CA algae blooms explained in Door County WI

Over the past few days. I have been struggling to find a clear explanation for the HAB (Harmful Algae Boom) that has overtaken Silverwood Lake, which is fed by the Mojave River, in Southeast CA. Then I happened upon a part-time resident of Door County, WI — one of the Midwest’s premier vacation spots– who was lamenting to me about the well-known, on-again-off-again HAB issues this beautiful area has experienced.

“We are told that our children can swim in the water,” she said, “and then … they can’t.”

Her frustration was palpable, and in it I found my answer: sometimes HAB can be explained when ALL elements work in balance to affect a Lake.

Animals are at particular risk with HAB
Animals are at particular risk with HAB

Silverwood Lake is unusual in that it is deep. Almost 170 feet at its deepest. But it is NOT unusual in its vulnerability to the primary factors which explain HAB in water. Always at the forefront is a tributary or land runoff super-loaded with nutrients — primarily phosphorus — pouring into a slow-moving body of water.

In Dour County, WI, that body of water is the Bay of Green Bay.

In Utah, there is Lake Utah.

In Florida there is Lake Okeechobee.

In CA, among lakes, there is Silverwood Lake.

And so it goes ….

To reduce HAB with solutions that have a chance at long-term potential, we must control what we can control — and go back to the basics of sound land management.


WI Farm Technology Days – not just about gadgets.

Touring Wisconsin (WI) Farm Technology Days, this year held on Snudden Farm on the outskirts of the beautiful, historically rich, and incredibly clean Geneva Lake area, I was eager to connect with professionals whose mission is to promote clean water.

I was not disappointed.

Though the focus of these professionals is mostly tied to ground water and drinking water, there was also sufficient concern for surface water as well.

And just for review, let’s discuss surface water, as defined by Goulds Water Technology, for a moment. And what surface water is cleanest.

In a nice review by real estate agent Adam Gohlke, the dirtiest water is that which contains the most runoff from farms, and municipalities. The cleanest: spring fed lakes, or lakes formed from exceedingly clean runoff (see: Crater Lake, which is considered by some to be the cleanest lake in the world, and has the added advantage of being one of the planet’s deepest lakes as well). These lakes are always self-contained, with no tributaries leading into them. Geneva Lake, Wisconsin’s second deepest at 145 feet, is an example of a self-contained spring-fed lake.

Geneva Lake, WI
Geneva Lake, WI

Gohlke’s basic assessment presents facts which are well-known to the professionals with whom I spoke. And that is encouraging.

Bottom line: not all lakes are created equally, and state and national clean water conservation resources must be shifted to those lakes with many tributaries  — which invariably possess excessive nutrients and pollutants. For these surface waters, eliminating invasive fish like carp, invasive and damaging plant life, and creating sizable land buffers between fertilized properties and waterways, are all critical steps that must be taken in EVERY instance.


Utah Lake’s not so dirty secret ….

As Utah Lake battles one of the most serious Harmful Algae Blooms (HAB) in its history, once again the explanations for the outbreak are readily available.

The first? It is shallow. An average depth this year of between nine and ten feet.

The second? Water in Utah County, within which Utah Lake resides, is used primarily for agriculture. Crops that feed the cattle and dairy farms which, according this somewhat dated yet still relevant assessment from Utah Extension, show that Utah County was ranked first in the state in Total Cash Receipts from crop production and ranked third in Cash Revenue from livestock production.

Utah Lake Algae Bloom
Utah Lake Algae Bloom

As of July 2016, farmers and ranchers were being discouraged from using water from Utah Lake for irrigation and animals. The fact that these agricultural operations are using the very water to which they contribute excessive amounts of phosphorus (and other nutrients), that foster HAB, is ironic.

And, unfortunately, all too common.