Harmful algal blooms or HABs are naturally occurring, however, their frequency and intensity are increasing. The rises in frequency are tightly linked to anthropogenic activities influencing nutrient delivery to surface water resources. Heightened agriculture production, discharges from sewer and wastewater management, and other urban runoff has amplified the amount of nutrients entering local and regional water systems and these excess nutrients create an increase in algae growth.
Currently, there are a number of extension and state agency resources and programs focusing on mitigating the impact of HABs, however information varies drastically from state-to-state and from entity-to-entity. This variability demonstrates the need for uniform up-to-date harmful algal bloom information and resources based on the latest research to be available across the region.
This past summer the Network awarded funding to the newly formed Water Resources Research Institutes (WRRIs) and Extension HAB team. The team is made-up of Extension and WRRI representatives from each of the 12 North Central Region states. Together, they are working to document existing state programming responses to harmful algal bloom related issues, assess outreach programming needs in the North Central Region, and develop recommendations for strengthening harmful algal bloom research and outreach throughout the region.
With Extension on the front-lines of making change and WRRIs focused on research related to local water issues, their partnership is critical to providing the best public service. This project is an Extension-driven effort taking the results from research, including WRRI sponsored research, and transforming it into accessible information and tangible tools for the public through extension and outreach in concert with state-based harmful algal bloom prevention, monitoring, and response efforts.
Currently, the team has cataloged current Extension and state-agency HAB resources; next month, at the North Central Region One Water Action Forum, the HAB team will get together for a face-to-face working session to discuss these resources and determine recommendations for HAB research and outreach moving forward. A whitepaper will be developed as a result, outlining next steps to address Extension needs related to HABs.