Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs)

a HAB is an overgrowth of, cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) in surface water. Cyanobacteria are microscopic organisms found in all types of water. They are more like bacteria than plants, but because they live in water and use sunlight to create food (photosynthesis) they are often called "blue-green algae." Cyanobacteria are important to freshwater ecosystems because they make oxygen as a by-product of photosynthesis, and they are a food source for other organisms.




The Harmful in Harmful Algal Bloom

Under certain environmental conditions, cyanobacteria can multiply quickly and form a bloom. Some species of cyanobacteria produce cyanotoxins that are released when the cells die and rupture. The toxins can cause harm to people, wildlife, livestock, pets and aquatic life. Almost every year in North Dakota, a few cases of pet and livestock deaths occur due to drinking water with HABs.

Additional effects of HABs include:

  • Blocking sunlight needed for other aquatic organisms
  • Raising treatment costs for public water supply systems and industries
  • Depleting dissolved oxygen as the algae dies off, resulting in fish kills
Algal Bloom - 3

Specific human health effects are:

  • Allergic-like reactions
  • Skin rashes
  • Eye irritation
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Respiratory irritation
  • Neurological effects

What Grows Algae?

  • Excess nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen)
  • Warm water temperatures
  • Slow-moving water
  • Sunlight

The major source of food for algae is nutrients that enter North Dakota lakes from:

  • Fertilizers (fields and yards)
  • Livestock and pet waste
  • Septic systems

The Source of the Problem

Once a waterbody has an excess of nutrients, the problem cannot be fixed overnight. Nutrients must be removed mechanically and/or allowed to be reduced naturally through internal cycling, while limiting the sources of nutrients in the watershed. Several North Dakota lakes have hypolimnetic drawdown systems that remove nutrient-rich water from the bottom of the lake. These systems can be effective at removing nutrients, but they do not address the nutrient sources.

What Can You Do?

Everyone plays a part in feeding the algae, from how you fertilize your lawn to the timing of fertilizing a 160-acre field, to whether or not you pick up your pet's waste, to the proper management of livestock waste. Tips to reduce nutrients from entering runoff to our surface waters:

  • Sample the soil in your yard before you fertilize.
  • Leave your grass clippings on the lawn - they give nitrogen back to the lawn.
  • If you do need to fertilize, use only the recommended amount of product and keep it off sidewalks and other hard surfaces.
  • Use field soil samples to calculate a nutrient budget for your crops.
  • Complete a comprehensive nutrient management plan for your farm.
  • Sample manure before applying it to the soil to ensure it is applied at the correct agronomic rate.

Email List (click to expand) then click "Program" to sort

Last Name First Name E-Mail Address Program
Anderson Carl cjanders@nd.gov WQ — Groundwater - Program Manager 701.328.5213
Collins James jcollins@nd.gov WQ — Watershed Management - TMDLs 701.328.5161
Crowdus Kory kcrowdus@nd.gov WQ — Spill Investigation 701.328.5202
Ell Mike mell@nd.gov WQ — Watershed Management - Program Manager 701.328.5214
Espe Brady bespe@nd.gov WQ — Permits - CAFO/AFO 701.328.5228
Giuliani Bill wgiuliani@nd.gov WQ — Permits 701.328.5285
Gleich Casey ctgleich@nd.gov WQ — Groundwater 701.328.4164
Gross Joe jlgross@nd.gov WQ — Watershed Management - Database Mgmt 701.328.5292
Grossman Dallas dgrossma@nd.gov WQ — Permits - Stormwater 701.328.5242
Hargiss Mike mhargiss@nd.gov WQ — Watershed Management - TMDLs 701.499.5209
Haroldson Marty mharolds@nd.gov WQ — Permits - Program Manager 701.328.5234
Harries Alison aharries@nd.gov WQ — Groundwater - Database Mgmt 701.328.5217
Husband Heather hduchsch@nd.gov WQ — Watershed Management - TMDLs 701.537.2043
Kannenberg Derek dKannenberg@nd.gov WQ — Groundwater 701.328.5296
Lang Jeremy jmlang@nd.gov WQ — Permits - CAFO/AFO 701.328.5219
Larsen Aaron allarsen@nd.gov WQ — Watershed Management 701.328.5230
Nett Joe jnett@nd.gov WQ — Watershed Management 701.328.5227
Nieraeth Shawna sNieraeth@nd.gov WQ — Groundwater 701.328.5267
O'Gorman Brian bogorman@nd.gov WQ — Spill Investigation 701.328.5177
Olson Paul paulrolson@nd.gov WQ — Watershed Management 701.328.5233
Peterson Andrew awpeterson@nd.gov WQ — Groundwater 701.328.5294
Piper Dianna dpiper@nd.gov WQ — Administrative 701.328.5210
Rockeman Karl krockema@nd.gov WQ — Director 701.328.5225
Roerick Jeff jroerick@nd.gov WQ — Permits - Discharges 701.328.5240
Sandness Greg gsandnes@nd.gov WQ — Watershed Management - NPS 701.328.5232
Sandvick Duane dsandvick@nd.gov WQ — Permits - Stormwater 701.328.5260
Schuett Patrick pschuett@nd.gov WQ — Permits - Database Mgmt 701.328.5235
Souder Taylor tSouder@nd.gov WQ — Spill Investigation 701.328.5236
Starr Sarah sstarr@nd.gov WQ — Permits - 701.328.5215
Stockdill Scott sjstockdill@nd.gov WQ — Spill Investigation 701.328.5241
Strommen Rachel rstrommen@nd.gov WQ — Permits - CAFO/AFO 701.328.5244
Suess Bill bsuess@nd.gov WQ — Spill Investigation - Program Manager 701.328.5216
Suggs Shannon ssuggs@nd.gov WQ — Groundwater 701.328.6409
Swanberg Samantha sswanberg@nd.gov WQ — Permits - Stormwater 701.328.5239
Waldron Feld Sarah sfeld@nd.gov WQ — Permits - 701.328.5237
Wax Peter pwax@nd.gov WQ — Special Projects 701.328.5268
Wells Whitney wwells@nd.gov WQ — Watershed Management - TMDLs 701.328.5253