Current and Recent Updates:
2014-10-29: The Harmful Algal Bloom in Devils Lake has dissipated significantly over the last week, and is hardly noticeable through most of the lake. However the Water Contact Advisory officially remains in place until further notice. Toxin analysis shows that all but one site are well below the state's guidelines for Microcystin. Please note though that other toxins may be present. Certain sites also do still have scum washing ashore depending on the wind direction at the time of sampling. This was at Holmes Road and the Campground at the time of sampling, but may change quickly.
During this water contact advisory:
- Do not drink the lake water (Please note that the Devils Lake State Campground does not use lake water for drinking, so their water as well as all city water is safe for consumption)
- Avoid swimming or waterskiing in areas of scum or where toxins are known to be present
- Keep pets away
- Clean fish well and discard guts
- Avoid areas of scum when boating
- Call your doctor or veterinarian if you or your animals have sudden or unexplained sickness or signs of poisoning.
Please note that activities that do not result in ingestion of lake water or inhalation of lake water droplets are low risk. This includes sun bathing, pleasure cruising, catch and release fishing, hiking, and wildlife viewing. Individuals who choose to eat fish caught during a bloom are advised to thoroughly clean, gut, remove skin and remove the head before cooking as toxins are not destroyed by cooking. This advisory remains in effect until further notice. Additional samples will be analyzed approximately every two weeks until the notice is lifted.
Read the Harmful Algal Bloom FAQ and Water Contact Advisory for more information.
2014-10-24: A Water Contact Advisory remains in place until further notice. High levels of blue-green algae remain present throughout a significant portion of the lake, with the highest concentrations in the NW and NE fingers. This is due to the high winds we have been receiving which has blown the blue-green algae up the lake. Water at the south end of the lake and out the D River is on the other hand rather clear as a result of the heavy rains we have been receiving flushing the lake out at the south end where Rock Creek flows in the lake.
*Due to weather conditions actually water testing was postponed and observations were limited from the shoreline only. Watch for areas of concentrated scum and be sure to keep canine friends away from the waters edge. Monitoring will continue until the posting is lifted, but only on a limited basis given the peak recreational season has passed.
2014-10-09: A Water Contact Advisory remains in place until further notice. High levels of blue-green algae remain present throughout much of the lake, being approximately evenly distributed through the mid-lake and more concentrated near shore. It is important to note that the only toxin tested for was Microcystin, and it is likely that species of blue-green algae are present that produce additional toxins. Watch for areas of concentrated scum and be sure to keep canine friends away from the waters edge.
Samples from both mid-lake and the shoreline contained toxins greater than 10 ppb, the recreational threshold. Water quality monitoring continues, with actual testing resuming in two weeks unless a change in conditions warrants earlier testing.
2014-09-24: Water Contact Advisory remains in place until further notice. High levels of blue-green algae remain present throughout much of the lake. Poor weather conditions prohibited the sampling of any mid lake samples, but the shoreline and the D River both had samples in excess of 10 ppb, the recreational threshold. The next sampling period will be in two weeks unless otherwise warranted.
2014-09-12: Water Contact Advisory remains in place until further notice. High levels of blue-green algae remain present throughout the lake. Now that we are outside of the peak use period (Memorial Day to Labor Day), only limited toxin monitoring at a limited number of sites will be conducted. This will however continue to be every other week until the lake is delisted and visual surveillance lake-wide will accompany this testing. Currently one mid lake site and two shoreline sites are being monitored for toxins which serve as good indicators for the lake as whole. Results of these samples showed toxins greater than 10 ppb (the recreational limit) upwards to 50 ppb. Visual surveillance shows that the lake is of marginally better water clarity and thus the bloom is certainly still very much alive and active.
2014-09-04: Water Contact Advisory remains in place until further notice. High levels of blue-green algae remain present throughout the lake. Toxin monitoring will continue until the advisory is lifted, however this may be limited in frequency and/or the number of sample sites given that the end of the peak recreational period (Memorial Day to Labor Day) has come.
2014-08-28: Water Contact Advisory remains in place until further notice. Additional toxin monitoring confirms that the toxins lake wide exceed the recreational guideline of 10 ppb, with all sites reporting Microcystin concentrations in excess of 25 parts per billion. One site which was further scrutinized (East Devils Lake State Park) had a value in excess of 125 ppb or over 12 times the recreational guideline. Water clarity remains poor lake wide and thus much of the lake may also be considerably higher than 25 ppb. The next monitoring will be conducted in two weeks unless conditions dramatically improve in the next week and warrant otherwise.
2014-08-22: Water Contact Advisory remains in place until further notice. High levels of blue-green algae are present throughout the lake. Toxin monitoring continues next week.
2014-08-14: Advisory remains in place. Toxin analysis confirm elevated levels are lakeside, and in most parts exceed 25 parts per billion. The recreational standard set by the state is 10 ppb. As a result the water contact advisory remains in effect. The next monitoring will be conducted in two weeks unless conditions dramatically improve in the next week and warrant otherwise.
Please note that activities that do not result in ingestion of lake water or inhalation of lake water droplets are low risk. This includes sun bathing, pleasure cruising, catch and release fishing, hiking, and wildlife viewing. Individuals who choose to eat fish caught during a bloom are advised to thoroughly clean, gut, remove skin and remove the head before cooking as toxins are not destroyed by cooking.
2014-08-08: Lake is still under water contact advisory. Toxin monitoring is conducted on alternating weeks during blooms and will resume next week.
2014-07-31: A water contact advisory associated with Harmful Algal Blooms has been issued for Devils Lake due to elevated levels of the toxin Microcystin. This toxin is produced by a type of blue-green algae called Microcystis currently growing in the lake in high numbers. The recreational limit for the toxin is 10 parts per billion (ppb) with many sites reporting levels above 25 parts per billion. Areas of highest blue-green algae density are typically the most affected, however the toxin has have been found lake wide to varying degrees. Also please note that conditions can change rapidly as the blue-green algae are circulated around the lake by wind and wave action, so toxin levels where they may have been less elevated can increase rapidly.
2014-07-18: As most can attest visually, we have experienced another large die off of blue-green algae in the last week, but notably the lake is already being repopulated with another potentially more toxic species and thus caution is still advised. Fortunately as of samples taken as recent as Friday, July 18, 2014 the toxin levels lake were low through much of the lake and only moderate in a couple of sites along the shoreline. However this can change rapidly as the bloom changes, week to week, day to day, sometimes hour to hour.
So far this year we have had an Anabaena bloom (Jan-Apr) followed by a clear period until early June when a smaller Microcystis bloom began. Within a few weeks the Microcystis was supplanted by a Gloeotrichia bloom which we have experienced until the last few days. This bloom however is being replaced by another Microcystis bloom as the cycle of boom and bust continues.
Nutrients in the lake and sunlight fuel these blooms which have been increasing in frequency and duration since the 1960's and particularly since the early 1990's (See Sediment Core data in the Bathymetry & Paleontology Study by Eilers et al 2005). Reducing the nutrients from the lake and watershed is a critical step in reducing these recurring Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs).
2014-07-10: Wind and wave action has moved the blue-green algae south for the most part away from Neotsu, and to a lesser degree Sand Point. Observations suggest that the greatest concentrations are along the eastern shore of East Devils Lake State Park, but are certainly present in varying degrees lake wide. No toxin data were collected for this week as this is an alternating schedule. Notably though the type of blue-green algae has not changed, nor have the assumed concentrations over the lake as a whole, only the distribution which again is largely controlled by the wind. Last week all samples for toxins were below 10ppb, and estimated to be even below 5ppb. However given the uncertainty with blue-green algae caution is advised when any significant bloom exists in the lake.
2014-07-02: Toxin monitoring showed that at all lake sample sites, levels were all below the Recreational Water quality standard of 10ppb for Microcystin, and estimated to be even below 5ppb as shown. However a major bloom is present in the lake as indicated by the Observations - Cell Counts. The big wind event last week moved most of the Harmful Algal Bloom (mostly now dominated by the species Gloeotrichia echinulata which is only a weak toxin producer largely explaining the low toxicity) to the north end of the lake. As such moderate to high concentrations were found in all areas north of and including Regatta Grounds. The south end of the lake had concentration that were all low, again due to the large wind event last week from the southwest. Wind and wave conditions change and can move these free-floating organisms around readily, so always look before you leap. Also while the toxin levels at all sites were low, this can change quickly depending on species and conditions, and other toxins not tested may be present.
2014-06-27: The big wind and rain events of the last 24 hours the Harmful Algal Bloom are nearly completing mixed throughout the lake. As the winds die back look for the blue-green algae returning to the surface which may form scums. As a result a lake-wide Yellow Caution is being shown. As always, keep pets and children away from any scummy waters. Toxin monitoring resumes next week.
2014-06-20: Based on the decreasing clarity in parts of the lake, the District conducted some toxin monitoring this week as shown. Shoreline samples with higher concentrations of blue-green algae had higher toxin values, but all were below state standards for recreational water. Conditions can change rapidly, so always Look Before you Leap!
2014-06-13: As the summer season progresses we have seen an increase in blue-green algae in parts of the lake. Specifically the campground was exhibiting a presence of such a bloom. All other areas along the shoreline were low or had no detectable blooms. As a result we are still in the period where we are just making observations as opposed to actual toxin testings. Conditions can change readily, so always Look Before you Leap!
2014-06-05: The lake continues to show signs of a blue-green algae bloom in much of the water column. Wind blows these free-floating organisms around, so variation in densities around the lake is expected and is the typical norm. Clarity continues to be good though suggesting there are only low concentrations at any of the sample sites around the lake.
Conditions can certainly change fast though, so always look before you leap. Notably, the Oregon Health Authority already reports Lost Creek Lake in SW Oregon has a major bloom, one that started a few weeks earlier than their first bloom last year. Of further interest their second bloom was a fall/winter bloom lasting 109 days, showing the unpredictability of these Harmful Algal Blooms. Also Mussel Harvesting has been closed from the Columbia River to Newport, indicative of similar types of blooms, but in this case obviously out in the ocean. Variations in weather conditions can cause significant change in how these microorganisms photosynthesize and reproduce, which is further impacted by the changing climate we live in, making predictions about Harmful Algal Blooms more and more complex.
What we do know is that Harmful Algal Blooms prefer slow moving, stagnant water. The longer they are in the water column the better they compete as they are slower to reproduce than "Good" algae. Impounding water both stagnates the water and increases the residence time of the lake which thus favors these Blue-green algae over "Good" algae.
2014-05-21: We are beginning to see the initial signs of a blue-green algae resurgence. Microcystin (one type of Blue-green algae) has been seen throughout much of the lake, however visual indications suggest it to be at a rather low concentration at this time. This however can change quickly, literally in a manner of days as populations can increase rapidly with increased sunshine and thus photosynthesis.
2014-04-17: No toxins found in Mid lake sample analyzed by King County Environmental Lab or in shoreline samples analyzed today.
2014-04-15: The water quality of Devils Lake has made tremendous improvements in the last few days. The Harmful Algal Bloom which turned the lake shades of gray, blue-gray, green, blue-green, and even white only a week ago has crashed throughout much of the lake. Much of the lake you can see right to the bottom with clarity upwards of 8'.
The bloom that we did have was dominated by a type of Anabaena, which was as of Friday all but non-existent in the mid lake sample we had analyzed. The improvements are seemingly continuing as the clarity increased from basically 3 feet on Friday to over 8 feet for the entire south half of the lake as reported Monday. The north half of the lake was still blue-green as of last report, so there is still recovery to be had, but the scums have dissipated which shows recovery is happening. Dissolved oxygen has also rebounded considerably, but lags behind in the both arms of the lake to the north.
Blue Green Algae Cell Counts: Total Blue green algae = 115 cells/ml (Alert thresholds are 40,000 and 100,000 depending on species). The number of blue-green algae were determined from a Friday sample and are shown here in total. The alert level is 100,000 for Anabaena and its cousins, so we are nearly 1000 times less than that now.
Toxicity: Samples for the four types of toxins commonly produced by Anabaena are currently being analyzed by King County Environmental Lab, and will be made available as soon as possible. Typically toxins can linger well after a bloom crashes, so while the lake may look clear there still may be toxins present.