HAB Activity? Follow The Herd ….

I got curious today, after considering poor Toledo, Ohio’s ongoing battle with Harmful Algae Blooms (HABs) in its Western Lake Erie drinking water source. And so, I posed a question: In OH, and WI, where are the preponderance of HABs? And, accordingly, where is the heaviest dairy production?

At the risk of making you, the reader, dig deep to find the information I gathered, I am going to here and now provide you with links to my reference articles:

Western Lake Erie Algae Bloom Projections

2007 State of OH Concentration of accepted Dairy Farm Permits (>700 cows)

Milk Production By County, Wisconsin, 2014

Toxic Algae Blooms On The Rise

And now, the unsurprising results from this search: wherever HABs are most impactful on a large scale (see: Toledo; see: The Green Bay of Lake MI), the largest presence of dairy cows and

UW-Milwaukee Students Sample Green Bay Waters
UW-Milwaukee Students Sample Green Bay Waters

milk production are either already dominant within the state (WI) — or are trending heavily in that direction (OH).

If best-practice standards for farmers remain marginally regulated, and farm operation regulations pale in comparison to what is required from municipalities, HABs will become an increasingly regular event with corresponding intensity.

In other words … this crappy situation is only going to get worse.

 

Kewaunee County, WI – A Crappy Situation.

In the discussion of Harmful Algae Blooms (HAB), there is perhaps no better location to reference than Kewaunee County, WI. As has been discussed in a previous CWW article, dairy farming is big business for this county with a population of about 21,000 people.

Really big business.

So much so that dairy cows outnumber the human population almost 4 to 1. That’s right. Nearly 80,000 dairy cattle, in one small WI county … with a vast Lake Michigan shoreline.

Now, if you are thinking that’s alot of cows, you are correct. And it has created a poopy situation which, despite the play on words, is actually incredibly serious.

As of 2016, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, fully one-third of all Kewaunee County wells are contaminated.

One-third.

In this terrific 2015 study conducted by The Socially Responsible Agricultural Project, mounds of empirical evidence supports the need for a better way of managing dairy cow manure. The well contamination is noted — in fact, this study proposed that it is one-half of the wells in the county that are contaminated — as well as the geological makeup of Kewaunee County; the rampant growth of dairy operations, and more.

All of it is useful information. But, for me, the most glaring number is this:

One cow generates at least 18 times the amount of waste as one human. Every day. 24/365.

Animal Manure On The Farm
Animal Manure On The Farm

And, while municipalities go to great lengths to control street runoff, waste from homes, etc., dairy farms have far less regulation and must meet far lower waste-management standards.

Imagine what the sanitation treatment landscape would look like if Kewaunee County held 360,000 people — making it the fourth most populated of Wisconsin’s 72 counties, instead of its current ranking of #52.

Do you see where this is going?

In the race to provide dairy products to a planet full of people, we are clearly trading freshwater for milk. Since it has been estimated that it takes some 40 gallons of fresh water to produce an 8 ounce glass of milk, that is an alarmingly one-sided deal.

One might even call it a waste.

 

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.