Algal Bloom Water Quality Research

Every year we see lakes and other bodies of water that develop blooms of harmful algae. It’s dangerous to humans, pets and livestock, and aquatic ecosystems. It also appears in lakes that are used for drinking water. The culprits include too many nutrients getting into the water from both agricultural and urban sources.

Jim Gulliford is a regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency. He says it’s a very challenging area from a science standpoint. And rather than pointing fingers, they’re committed to finding answers that can help everybody do their part.

"We want to be able to do three things. One, we want to be able to predict when a harmful algal bloom will occur because then it’s easier to warn people rather than for them to be potentially be exposed when they don’t want to. Secondly, we’re looking for the causes," says Gulliford. "Is it excess nutrients, is it something else that’s naturally occurring? And then the third thing is, what can we do about it?"

Researchers are developing new tools and technologies to measure waterborne contaminants and understand how they form. For example, he says they’re doing some interesting research in large reservoirs.

"We’ve got floating water quality stations that are taking water quality samples at different depths. And so, it’s really trying to gain an understanding of what’s happening in these lakes," explains Gulliford. "We know that different things happen at different depths, we get different sunlight penetration and interestingly the cleaning the lake, the further the sunlight penetrates into it, and the more algae growth that can sometimes occur because of that."

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