Provo Bay Algae Bloom, Utah Lake Still Open
The algae have arrived. The Utah Department of Environmental Quality/Utah Department of Health issued a Warning Advisory for Provo Bay. But don’t let that cyanobacteria get you down. The issue of algae blooms is both complex and highly variable. So while one small area of the lake might be experiencing a bloom, the rest of the 150 square miles is perfectly safe. In their Warning Advisory, the Director of the Department of Health said: “Utah Lake is a huge lake with many areas not currently affected.” Which means that unless you were planning on swimming in or drinking the water of Provo Bay, or better known as “Mud Bay”, you don’t need to cancel your lake plans.
Algae blooms in Utah Lake are complex events that depend on a number of factors like high water temperatures, nutrient-rich water, and plenty of sunshine. Not algae are created equal. The chief offender in these blooms is cyanobacteria, AKA, blue-green algae. If you see mats of algae wash ashore, coating rocks and flotsam, you can bet it’s cyanobacteria. However, simply the presence of cyanobacteria does not mean the water is especially harmful to humans.
In a forthcoming article, we’ll be fully diving into the topic of algae, how it blooms, when it can be potentially harmful, and exactly what the difference is between a Warning Advisory and Danger Advisory. But to put it simply, when cyanobacteria bloom in massive numbers, they can produce chemicals that are potentially harmful to humans. So when water is tested, scientists look for both amounts of cyanobacteria(cell counts) and whether or not those potentially harmful chemicals(toxins) are found.
In the case of Provo Bay on June 12, DEQ water-quality crews took samples from various locations around the Swede Sportsman Access point. In those samples, they found enough cyanobacteria and the toxins they can produce to warrant a Warning Advisory. But as stated above, the lake is simply massive and this advisory is only for Provo Bay.
Compared to the rest of the Utah Lake, Provo Bay is relatively shallow and stagnant. Just like the Gulf of Mexico, which is also relatively shallow and stagnant, this translates to much warmer water compared to the rest of the lake. Combine these conditions with already nutrient-dense water and algae, and in some occasions, cyanobacteria, couldn’t ask for better conditions to thrive. However, this means that while cyanobacteria are present in Provo Bay, the rest of the lake is open for recreation.
So if you had plans for Utah Lake this weekend, the conditions are still perfect! Unfortunately, after you subtract Provo Bay, Utah Lake is only 31.6 times the size of Deer Creek. Good luck playing bumper boats with only 1,000 acres to yourself. The warning is specific to Provo Bay. But the lake proper is still open. And the State Park still has that new-park smell after some heavy improvements being made to the harbor and surrounding area during the winter.
To stay updated on Utah Lake water quality visit the DEQ’s website here. Also check back with us, at the Utah Lake Commission, for everything you need to know about algae blooms on the lake. Tag us in your Instagram pics this weekend @utahlake and have fun out there with 1,000 acres to yourself.