Wet spring could lead to more harmful algae blooms this summer

Jun 19, 2017

This spring's wet weather could make the blue-green algae problem worse later this summer.

It’s no secret that this has been a tremendously rainy spring, according to SUNY ESF biochemistry professor Greg Boyer. And that could set the stage for big algae blooms later this summer. Blooms rely on nitrogen and phosphorus that run into the lake, combined with hot and calm sunny days.

“Just the fact that there is so much runoff in the water, that there’s so much rain coming into the water,” said Boyer. “And sort of over the last couple of years, when the blooms come, we’ve really gotten the hot and calm weather that leads them to develop.”

But Boyer says there are some bigger issues that have contributed to an increase of these blooms, like climate change.

“The wetter springs, the warm, hotter dry summers are exactly the type of conditions that favor the development of blue-green algae,” he said.

And Boyer says there’s also another manmade factor.  More people are living along waterfronts in upstate New York, using septic systems that leech the nutrients algae love, into the water.

“Forty years ago, there were maybe were 20 cabins around a lake. Now there are maybe 500 houses around the lake,” said Boyer. “And while they were used only one or two months a year, now they’re being used year round. So this cumulated impact, there’s more stress on the lake, there’s more nutrients going into the lake, this is just leading to more algal blooms.”

A certain kind of blue-green algae can threaten water filtration systems and affect water quality. It can also close beaches and kill pets.