Harmful Algal Blooms (or HABs) are a frequent and frustrating occurrence in many of our surface waterbodies in South Dakota and elsewhere. As a resident of Mitchell, SD, I see the consequences that these annual, summer-long blooms can have on both the quality of Lake Mitchell and quality of life, as well as the extraordinary financial investment the City of Mitchell is currently considering to combat the issue. Other recent and widely-publicized HABs include Lake Erie and this summer’s red tide outbreak on Florida’s west coast which has devastated marine life and impacted Florida’s economy. The frequency and intensity with which these blooms occur can be linked to human activities that deliver excessive nutrients to our surface water resources. Agricultural and urban runoff, along with discharges from wastewater systems are all examples that have been shown to increase the nutrient enrichment of our waterways.
The North Central Region Water Network (NCRWN) is an Extension-led partnership of 12 land-grant universities in the Upper Midwest which seeks to:
- Increase connectivity and learning among university professionals and partners engaged in water-related research, education, and management.
- Strengthen the resource base available for Extension education.
- Generate measurable environmental and social impacts in the short and long-term.
Through a partnership with NCRWN Extension educators and Water Resources Research Institute personnel (WRRI), a focus on HAB mitigation education and research needs across the region is currently underway. Thanks to a recently awarded mini-grant from the NCRWN, Extension educators and WRRI research professionals are beginning to take the following steps:
- Inventory existing material and literature regarding HABs in each respective state. This will give each state a “current picture” of HAB-related Extension publications as well as publications from other sources.
- During a facilitated work session in conjunction with the 2018 NCRWN meeting in December, partners will assess current material and identify information gaps and educational outreach programming needs across the region.
- Develop recommendations for strengthening HAB research and outreach that will positively impact the quality of people’s lives.
SDSU Extension and WRRI personnel are currently inventorying all algal bloom-related material which will be shared during the work session in December. It is hoped that this project will strengthen research and outreach activities regarding HABs, expand the informational resources available to the public, and improve policy and practices.