Nutrient Experiments May Help Gain a Better Understanding of Algal Blooms in Utah

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Scientists to test the Great Salt Lake and Utah Lake

Photo of USGS scientists conducting a study on the Great Salt Lake.
USGS scientists taking measurements on the Great Salt Lake on Aug. 9, 2016. Public domain

U.S. Geological Survey scientists will be conducting an experimental study on two Utah water bodies to gain a better understanding of nutrient levels, which could help in understanding how to best manage algal bloom outbreaks.

Excessive concentrations of nutrients in streams and lakes can adversely affect biological communities and spur algal growth, which can lead to harmful algal blooms and decrease the amount of oxygen in the water. This can result in areas experiencing stress or death of near or bottom dwelling organisms.

This pilot project will use new technology to measure the distribution, occurrence, and concentration of nutrients in Gilbert Bay of the Great Salt Lake and throughout Utah Lake.

"This summer’s algal blooms underscore the need to find and apply new data-collection methods for cyanobacteria,” said Ben Holcomb, Utah Department of Environmental Quality's coordinator for the Harmful Algae Bloom Program. “Real-time monitoring from the USGS, combined with DEQ’s deployment of new, high-frequency sondes at high-risk waterbodies, will not only help scientists predict and respond to algal blooms quicker, it will also help DEQ develop site-specific standards that address nutrient sources that lead to harmful algal blooms."

          What:     Scientists to conduct an experimental study on the Great Salt Lake and Utah Lake.

        When:      9:30 a.m., Wednesday, August 10

       Where:      Utah Lake State Park

         Who:      USGS scientists and representatives from Utah DEQ

Interested reporters are asked to please RSVP to Jennifer LaVista

“We know that there are many factors that cause algal blooms, such as increasing nutrient loads, warmer temperatures, turbidity, and changes in flow conditions,” said USGS hydrologist, Chris Shope. “Nutrient levels are one of the few factors that resource managers may have control over. Understanding the impacts that nutrients and algal blooms have on our watersheds cannot be fully understood without adequate monitoring, which may help with mitigation strategies in the future.”

Photo of USGS scientists measuring nutrient levels in Goggin Drain, Utah.
USGS scientists Bryan Downing, Mike Freeman and Katy O'Donnell measure nutrient levels in Goggin Drain, Utah on August 8, 2016. Public domain

Updates on algal blooms across Utah can be found on the Utah Department of Environmental Quality website.

Photo of USGS scientists conducting a study on the Great Salt Lake.
USGS scientists take measurements on the Great Salt Lake on Aug. 9, 2016. Public domain
Photo of USGS scientists prepare water-quality instruments before going out on the Great Salt Lake.
USGS scientists prepare water-quality instruments before going out on the Great Salt Lake on Aug. 9, 2016. Public domain
Photo of USGS water-quality instruments to measure nutrient levels
USGS scientists use multiple high-frequency water quality instruments contained in a cage to measure nutrients and algal changes in surface water. Public domain
Photo of USGS scientists measuring nutrient levels in Goggin Drain, Utah.
USGS scientists Christopher L. Shope, Bryan Downing, Katy O'Donnell and Mike Freeman measure nutrient levels in Goggin Drain, Utah. Public domain