Colorado is connected to water in more ways than most people realize. From fresh peaches grown on the western slope to the cutthroat trout in a favorite cold mountain stream, Colorado’s wildlife and people are directly tied water. Colorado receives the majority of it’s water through snow-pack. As winters shorten and summers lengthen, the water supply is predicted to decrease. This issue is exacerbated by the state’s increasing population and demand for water. Colorado’s dire water situation will affect all aspects of life in the state. Without enough water Colorado will lose agricultural products, days on the ski slopes, and trout streams to fish. Unfortunately, Colorado is still struggling with the consequences of the 2017/2018 low winter snowpack and dismal summer monsoon season. Colorado has not escaped this drought, with over 80% of the state in some form of drought according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. As aquatic resource managers, the lack of water is a serious challenge that also presents an opportunity to help people with aquatic resources adapt to a changing climate.
Low water, whether in a river or pond, is the result of low snowpack and hot conditions. As the sun heats less water, there is more energy in the system. These two conditions fuel unchecked algae and aquatic vegetation growth as there is less “medium” between the bottom substrate and the atmosphere. While algae and rooted vegetation growth during the summer months is normal, scientists generally agree that algae blooms, especially harmful blue greens, are getting more severe and spreading. Climate change isn’t the only influence to blame; increases in agricultural and urban runoff are fueling the nutrients that feed the algae. These blooms are not just aesthetically unpleasing, but potentially harmful to both humans and wildlife. This past summer, a toxic algae bloom from the Florida Everglades to both coasts reached national headlines as the many species of blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) caused massive fish and marine mammal die offs. Unfortunately, the economy took a direct hit. Humans exposed to high levels of blue-green algae are prone to nausea, respiratory irritation, diarrhea, and allergic reaction. Even in Colorado, Aqua Sierra has seen an increase in blooms of blue-green algae in recent years.
While the response to a blue-green algae bloom is dependent on several factors, there are a few steps everyone should take. The first, is to contact an aquatic resource manager to come out and positively identify the algae. Next, the biologist will come up with a detailed approach to combat the algae. Ideally it is best to identify the source of the algae bloom and work to reduce the driving factor. Other times, treatments of algaecide by a licensed technician will be used to bring the bloom under control. Aqua Sierra has an exciting product that is very effective at controlling the nutrients that feed these toxic blooms and is available to help those prone to potentially harmful algal blooms reduce the risk. At the very least,it’s vital to make sure no pets or people come in contact with a potentially toxic algal bloom. By posting signs around the perimeter of the resource, community members can become aware of the threat the blue-green algae poses. Call an Aqua Sierra Biologist today to set up an appropriate and tailored aquatic resource treatment plan to keep your water safe in this changing climate.