Utah Department of Agriculture and Food

Utah Lake Algal Bloom Map 2017

Coming this week to a farmers market near you this week in many areas of the state are the first farm fresh ears of sweet corn.



            DEQ Focus

The DEQ collects samples from waterbodies to determine cyanobacteria or cyanotoxins exposure risks. Initial sampling of cell counts using the ELISA method is commonly conducted through the open water recreation season.

    UDAF Focus

Once elevated cell counts have been identified through testing; or reports of concerns have been received, UDAF will sample for cyanotoxins and provide data related to water used for agricultural purposes. UDAF will focus on livestock watering sources and the distribution of irrigation water.



When deciding how to determine sampling procedures, we need to understand the agricultural risks. In a lake, reservoir, or stock pond cattle may have access to the shoreline or the entire water profile if the waterbody is shallow. Rivers, streams, and canals are also often used as livestock drinking water sources.

What are we sampling for? Cyanotoxins


Where are we sampling?  When concerns of cyanotoxins have been identified an evaluation will be made to determine sampling locations. Samples should address all possible agricultural impacts including irrigation water, livestock and crops. Knowing possible animal access, additional water inputs, and water distributions are important factors when deciding where samples need to be taken.

  • Lakes, streams and stock ponds based on livestock access
  • Irrigation distribution systems


When are we taking samples? Sampling begins once a notice has been verified of potential harm from cyanotoxins. Notifications may come from testing data of high cell counts or reports of animal sickness or loss which may be linked to cyanotoxins.


Who will take the samples? UDAF staff including

  1. UDAF Water Quality Staff
  2. Watershed Coordinators
  3. Zone Coordinators and Planners
  4. Conservation District Supervisors
  5. Utah Water Watch


What is the protocol for collecting and handling samples?  

  • Handling Samples
    • Fill out sample data label (Attachment H) and correspond with bottle
    • Store on ice

Deliver within 24 hours to a specified lab



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How Do I Know if I Have A Toxic Bloom?


You can’t know for certain unless you have the water tested.  However, look for these differences between cyanobacteria and non-toxic green algae:


  • Cyanobacteria looks like pea soup, an oil slick, or like someone placed dye in the water. Cyanobacteria is potentially toxic under the right conditions (See right).


  • Filamentous (non-toxic) green algae often looks like a mass of green hair on the water (see below).


Links To Other Identification Resources

Field Guide to Algae (from Kentucky)



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Potential Harmful Effects--General

There are potential health impacts, some of them serious or lethal, to people and animals that come in contact with cyanotoxins. To date, most of the research has been focused on direct ingestion by humans and animals of water containing cyanotoxins. But what about if you water fruit, vegetable or edible herb plants with water containing cyanotoxins?

Potential Harmful Effects--Plants

Limited research is ongoing and data is inconclusive on cyanotoxin uptake in plant tissue.

  • Studies in controlled environments have shown that some plants can accumulate cyanotoxins.
  • Cyanotoxin uptake in plant tissue are more likely to accumulate with extended exposure. This is dependent on plant type, watering procedures, and length of exposure and whether the plants are grown hydroponically or in the soil.






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