The province has launched a new website to help residents recognize and identify algae blooms in B.C. lakes, and contribute to citizen science data gathering.
The province says algae are a natural part of aquatic ecosystems, providing food for fish and supplying much of the oxygen we breathe.
But prolific growth can cause a dense mass or bloom to form — Charlie Lake for example is notorious for regularly-occurring blue-green algae, also called cyanobacteria, which can produce potent toxins harmful to humans, animals, and livestock.
The Ministry of Environment says the new Algae Watch website will help the province better understand where and when algae blooms occur, and help scientists determine future water-monitoring programs.
Residents are encouraged to use the site to learn the difference between algae blooms, and provide information and photos on the location and extent of algae blooms in their area.
"The website can help us track changes over time and identify areas of the province that are getting more algae blooms. We can then start investigating what's causing these changes," said Mike Sokal, a water quality limnologist for the province.
"It's really encouraging to see people interested in what's happening at their lake. Some of those concerned citizens become champions for the lake and start local sampling programs."
Norm Zirnhelt of the B.C. Lake Stewardship Society encourages everyone to pay attention to what's happening on their local lakes and to report anything unusual to the province.
"Lakes are susceptible to impacts from all kinds of human land uses and activities, so it's really important that there's some vigilance on those activities. If there are any changes that might be occurring in a lake, citizens can be an early detection or early warning mechanism," Zirnhelt said.
Anyone with immediate concerns related to drinking and/or recreational water use is asked to contact their local health authority.
Learn more at gov.bc.ca/algaewatch.
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