Water regulators and public health agencies are warning Californians to avoid contact with water containing blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria.
The algal blooms are occurring all over the state - in San Luis Reservoir, Lake Shasta and Oroville, coastal and inland areas and even in the Sierra.
Greg Gearhart with the State Water Resources Control Board says it’s particularly bad this year because the drought is providing perfect conditions.
“Every summer the water tends to warm up, but if there’s less snowmelt and there’s less groundwater inclusion in our runoff, we don’t have as much cold water and so we get warmer water and then we also get concentrating effects of some of the nutrients in our water bodies. So the blooms take off.”
The blue-green algae itself is not dangerous but it can produce toxins that are, says Dr. Bob Poppenga a toxicologist at UC Davis Animal Health and Food Laboratory.
“There are some toxins that are elaborated that damage the liver severely; there’s some that produce damage to the nervous system.”
It’s harmful to both humans and pets if ingested. It is not affecting drinking water systems.