• Sunset at Lake Mead's Boulder Basin

    Lake Mead

    National Recreation Area AZ,NV

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  • I-15 REOPENED, LAKE MEAD ENTRANCE FEES TO RESUME SUNDAY

    The Nevada Department of Transportation reopened a northbound and southbound lane of Interstate 15 Sept. 12; therefore, Lake Mead National Recreation Area entrance fees will resume Sept. 14. More »

  • Important Notice to Mariners

    Lake Mead water elevations will be declining throughout the summer. Before launching, check lake levels, launch ramp conditions, changes to Aids to Navigation and weather conditions by clicking on More »

  • Areas of Park Impacted by Storm Damage

    Strong storms rolled through Lake Mead National Recreation Area Aug. 3-4, causing damage to some areas of the park. Crews are working to restore the below locations. Debris may be present in other areas of the park, as well, especially in the backcountry. More »

Green Algae

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Algae is common in most bodies of both fresh and salt water. The widespread bloom of the green algae species (Pyramichlamys) seen in bays and coves at Lake Mead in 2001 was a highly unusual event caused by a unique combination of hydrologic factors.



Algae F.A.Q.’s

What is it?

The dominant algae has officially been identified and verified by several scientists and water quality experts as Pyramichlamys sp. It is closely related to the species Carteris sp., but it is separated by the presence of a notch adjacent to the flagella. Each individual "plant" is about 14 to 18 microns in size. It is a member of Chlorophyta or green algae. Green Algae is considered to be the most ancient green plants.

Why is it here?

Algae spores are common in most bodies of fresh and salt water. The species identified in Lake Mead (Pyramichlamys) has been quite prevalent throughout the entire United States over the last three years. It takes several factors for algae to bloom. One factor is abnormal weather conditions (cold, then warm, then mild alternating over a several day period). In order to bloom, Pyramichlamys requires a large concentration of nitrogen and a small concentration of phosphorous. This is not unusual. The phenomenon has occurred in 1996, 1997, 1998, and 2001 in the inner Las Vegas Bay. The 2001 growth was the largest of these and expanded into an extensive algae bloom.

Is the water OK for body contact activities?

No toxins have been associated with a green algae bloom. In fact, in some cultures green algae is considered a perfect food source. In 2001, the National Park Service and the Southern Nevada Water Authority tested two sites in the areas with the algae bloom for fecal streptocaccus, E. coli and fecal coliform. The tests returned within the acceptable standards for full body contact. Although it reduces the clarity of the water, green algae is not considered a hazard to body contact recreation.

Is it a problem if I swallow some of the green water?

Although the water does not look clear, according to the scientific literature, there is no threat to public health from the green algae bloom if a healthy person swallows a small amount. However, no matter how clear a body of water looks, no one should drink the water if it has not been treated to drinking water standards. Drinking any non-potable water presents some health risks.

Are the fish OK to eat?

Green algae is a natural food source in the aquatic environment and will not influence the edibility of fish. The food chain of Lake Mead National Recreation Area will thrive on the nutrient-packed algae. It is expected that fishing will become very good after green algae blooms, due to the abundance of green algae available to the lower aquatic life forms in the foodchain.

Is the algae toxic?

Unlike the Blue-green algae, no toxins have been identified in blooms of the green algae. As mentioned above, samples of the water were tested for levels of fecal streptococci, E. coli, and fecal coliform. The results showed findings that were well within standards for body contact.

What happens if my dog drinks some of the water/swims in the lake?

As with people, dogs should be discouraged from drinking any water that is in a lake or stream. Treat your pet as if they are a member of your family. When you bring your pet to the lake, carry a potable supply of water for them as you would do for yourself and your children. Swimming in any body of water has risks for pets.

What is being done about it?

After the extensive algae bloom in 2001, the Lake Mead Water Quality Forum, chaired by the Nevada Division of Environmental protection, established an algae sub-committee. The group investigated the 2001 bloom and feels that the factors that led to it included: above average spring rains, dropping lake elevations, exposure of the mile-long Las Vegas Wash delta, wash plume overflow, and phosphorus load. Based upon recommendations of the group, the wastewater plant operators voluntarily increased their phosphorus removal during the winter of 2001-2002. The Clean Water Coalition, Bureau of Reclamation, and National Park Service are initiating a planning process and Environmental Impact Statement which will seek alternative discharge options into the Colorado River system, with reducing/minimizing algae blooms in Lake Mead as one of the goals.

The National Park Service, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, is a member of the Lake Mead Water Quality Forum, a multi-agency group established to address water quality concerns in Lake Mead. The NPS has expressed a strong desire for the long-term preservation of the existing high water quality of Lake Mead, including water clarity.

Green Algae Growth at some shoreline areas on

Lake Mead National Recreation Area

 
Green Algae on Lake Mead

Green Algae on Lake Mead

What is it? The dominant algae has officially been identified and verified by several scientists and water quality experts as Pyramichlamys sp. It is closely related to the species Carteris sp., but it is separated by the presence of a notch adjacent to the flagella. Each individual "plant" is about 14 to 18 microns in size. It is a member of Chlorophyta or green algae. Green Algae is considered to be the most ancient green plants.

 

It is not a species of Blue-green algae.

Why is it here? Algae spores are common in most bodies of fresh and salt water. The species identified in Lake Mead (Pyramichlamys) has been quite prevalent throughout the entire United States over the last three years. It takes several factors for algae to bloom. One factor is abnormal weather conditions (cold, then warm, then mild alternating over a several day period). In order to bloom, Pyramichlamys requires a large concentration of nitrogen and a small concentration of phosphorous. This is not unusual. The phenomenon has occurred in 1996, 1997, 1998, and 2001 in the inner Las Vegas Bay. The 2001 growth was the largest of these and expanded into an extensive algae bloom.

 
Green Algae at Lake Mead

Is the water OK for body contact activities? No toxins have been associated with a green algae bloom. In fact, in some cultures green algae is considered a perfect food source. In 2001, the National Park Service and the Southern Nevada Water Authority tested two sites in the areas with the algae bloom for fecal streptocaccus, E. coli and fecal coliform. The tests returned within the acceptable standards for full body contact. Although it reduces the clarity of the water, green algae is not considered a hazard to body contact recreation.

 

Is it a problem if I swallow some of the green water? Although the water does not look clear, according to the scientific literature, there is no threat to public health from the green algae bloom if a healthy person swallows a small amount. However, no matter how clear a body of water looks, no one should drink the water if it has not been treated to drinking water standards. Drinking any non-potable water presents some health risks.

Are the fish OK to eat? Green algae is a natural food source in the aquatic environment and will not influence the edibility of fish. The food chain of Lake Mead National Recreation Area will thrive on the nutrient-packed algae. It is expected that fishing will become very good after green algae blooms, due to the abundance of green algae available to the lower aquatic life forms in the foodchain.

 
Green Algae at Lake Mead

Is the algae toxic? Unlike the Blue-green algae, no toxins have been identified in blooms of the green algae. As mentioned above, samples of the water were tested for levels of fecal streptococci, E. coli, and fecal coliform. The results showed findings that were well within standards for body contact.

What happens if my dog drinks some of the water/swims in the lake? As with people, dogs should be discouraged from drinking any water that is in a lake or stream. Treat your pet as if they are a member of your family. When you bring your pet to the lake, carry a potable supply of water for them as you would do for yourself and your children. Swimming in any body of water has risks for pets.

 

What is being done about it? After the extensive algae bloom in 2001, the Lake Mead Water Quality Forum, chaired by the Nevada Division of Environmental protection, established an algae sub-committee. The group investigated the 2001 bloom and feels that the factors that led to it included: above average spring rains, dropping lake elevations, exposure of the mile-long Las Vegas Wash delta, wash plume overflow, and phosphorus load. Based upon recommendations of the group, the wastewater plant operators voluntarily increased their phosphorus removal during the winter of 2001-2002. The Clean Water Coalition, Bureau of Reclamation, and National Park Service are initiating a planning process and Environmental Impact Statement which will seek alternative discharge options into the Colorado River system, with reducing/minimizing algae blooms in Lake Mead as one of the goals.

The National Park Service, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, is a member of the Lake Mead Water Quality Forum, a multi-agency group established to address water quality concerns in Lake Mead. The NPS has expressed a strong desire for the long-term preservation of the existing high water quality of Lake Mead, including water clarity.

Did You Know?

Jimbilnan Wilderness - taken by Brian Beffort

"In a country where nature has been so lavish and where we have been so spendthrift of indigenous beauty, to set aside a few rivers in their natural state should be considered an obligation." -- Senator Frank Church