Harmful Algal Blooms in water bring significant impacts to coastal communities. They can close beaches, make people and their dogs sick and close fisheries, which can cripple local economies.
Harmful Algal Blooms [HABs] in Water Have Wide Ranging Impacts
Harmful algal blooms (HABs) occur when water is overloaded with nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus that are necessary for plant growth but become pollution in excess. Algal blooms occur naturally, but human development has knocked the natural nutrient cycling out of balance and made them harmful. Primary sources of nutrients include: wastewater treatment plant discharges; septic system leaks; fertilizer runoff from residential lawns; fertilizer runoff from farm fields; and runoff or leaks from animal agriculture manure lagoons.
The impacts from HABs range from something as limited as a beach closing for a short time to fishery closings for entire seasons to toxic, low-oxygen waters that kill aquatic organisms and can leave people sick or dead. Outbreaks can cause significant damage to local economies.
Through our articles, infographics and news briefs, you can learn more about HAB impacts as well as a breakdown of their causes, what types are normally seen and where they’re generally found.
The Algal Doom Series
Articles and Infographics
What are HABs?
- Why are HABs a growing threat?
Green, blue and red slime in water bodies around the country have people wondering, “Why are algal blooms bad?”
- Infographic [PDF]: What is a HAB?
HABs can be incredibly harmful to humans, pets, wildlife and the ecosystem.
What causes HABs?
- What causes HABs and how are humans involved?
Algal blooms occur naturally, but human development has knocked the natural nutrient cycle out of balance and made them harmful.
- Infographic [PDF]: What causes HABs?
Many factors contribute to HABs, but a major element is nutrient pollution.
What kind of damage can HABs do?
- HABs come in many colors. What are their potential hazards?
A vast array of biotoxins in HABs are harmful and can poison humans, land and aquatic mammals, fish, shellfish and other aquatic species.
- Infographic [PDF]: When are HABs dangerous?
HABs can destroy critically important habitat on a massive scale.
Where do HABs occur?
- HABs cause trouble around the US. Find out where the hot spots are.
HABs are here, there and everywhere and their prevalence makes them hard to miss.
- Infographic [PDF]: Where are the HAB Hotspots around the US?
Algal blooms happen across the world, but here are some of the biggest (and worst) in the US and their causes.
Other Articles About HABs
- The Impact of Climate Change on Water Resources
As the earth’s average temperature continues to rise, expect significant impacts on water resources with the potential for devastating effects.
- Farm Country Faces Water Pollution from Droughts and Rains Spurred by Climate Change
Farm country and rain might not always mix, especially when rains pours nitrogen pollution into rural waterways, especially after periods of drought.
- To HAB and HAB Not? Harmful Algal Blooms Plaguing Our Waters
Harmful algal blooms are a constant water quality problem that are often plain to see (although not always).
- Toxic Algae Blooms and Agriculture: 5 Things to Know About Their Connection
There are a number of factors that have been linked to toxic algal blooms and there is a strong linkage between industrial agriculture and HAB outbreaks.
- Waterkeepers Fighting Harmful Algal Blooms from Coast to Coast
Local water protection organizations like the Waterkeeper groups around the US and the world are on the front lines of the battle for nutrient pollution reduction.
News Briefs About HABs
- As Climate Warms, Algae Blooms In Drinking Water Supplies
States like Ohio and Oregon now require regular toxins testing in their drinking water sources because HABs can cause respiratory illnesses, organ damage and even death.
- Toxic Algae Makes Iowa’s Des Moines River “Essentially Unusable” for Drinking Water
Toxic algae from farm runoff made Iowa’s Des Moines River “essentially unusable” for drinking water without intensive and expensive treatment.
- To Fight Toxic Algae, Lake Erie Has a Bill of Rights
A city of Toledo, Ohio ballot measure requested an amendment to the city charter that asserts Lake Erie and its watershed hold the right “to exist, flourish, and naturally evolve,” after worsening bouts of toxic blue-green algae plagued the lake.
- Ag-Related Nitrate Common in Small Town Water Supplies, Says New EWG Report
According to an EWG report, the drinking water supplies for millions of people living in farm country are compromised because of nitrate pollution from agriculture.
- US Breaks Wettest 12-Month Record Again, With Consequences
The wettest 12-month period in the contiguous US from mid-2018 to mid-2019 forced Mississippi to shut down it’s beaches because of toxic algal blooms.