Our aerial patrols are giving us a new perspective on harmful algae blooms (HABs) in the Delta.
HABs aren’t your typical pond scum. One kind of HAB, known as blue-green algae (which are actually bacteria), releases toxins that are so potent that people and animals can be harmed just by breathing droplets of contaminated water. Contact with these HABs can be deadly for dogs and other creatures that swim too close and can cause serious illnesses for humans.
The blooms thrive on agricultural runoff and sewage pollution, warm temperatures, and stagnant water. Historically, conditions in the Bay-Delta have not been conducive to large HABs, mostly due to the strong tidal flows that permeate into the upper reaches of our watershed. Unfortunately, HAB-generating conditions are now becoming more common. This year, the Delta had an unusually high number of HABs.
To get a better perspective on the problem, Baykeeper’s scientists teamed up with Restore the Delta to survey the area from above. We partnered with LightHawk Conservation Flying to observe these blooms from above. We’ll use this documentation to continue to track algae blooms and to inform our advocacy to stop them at the source. And we’ve already been working proactively on limiting HAB pollution sources around the Bay, before the harmful blooms become a problem in this part of the waterway, too.
Pictured: a harmful algae bloom (in bright green, center) in the Delta, captured during an aerial patrol with LightHawk. Aerial patrols are ideal for tracking HABs since they are more visible from above than from sea level.