Water conservation efforts lead to larger toxic algae blooms in Natomas

Local News

NORTH NATOMAS, Calif. (KTXL) — City officials have placed warning signs at four North Natomas parks where California water inspectors have found signs of algae blooms that can be harmful to people and pets. 

Algae blooms are not uncommon during warm spells when there is stagnant water around, but the toxins in the bacteria they produce can be harmful.

“Keep yourself, your children, keep your pets out of these waterways,” said Carlos Eliason of the City of Sacramento Department of Utilities.

The toxin’s effects can include flu-like symptoms like fever, headaches, breathing and stomach ailments. 

The bodies of water at the North Natomas parks are flood control basins that filter water from homes and businesses before being released into the rivers. 

Pesticides, fertilizers, brake dust and other contaminants are food for algae, but during a drought, there is less water which stays more stagnant, allowing algae to bloom.

For example, the basin at North Natomas Community Park is blanketed by green algae. 

With drought conditions in the region, city officials have been trying to get residents to use less water and have been successful in doing so. But the reduction in water usage means more algae will grow.

“There’s less runoff and that causes those warm temperatures and the algae blooms to pop up so it’s kind of a double-edged sword there,” explained Eliason. “We want people to use less water but then less water ends up in these basins.”

The kids at Sacramento’s Landscape and Learning program work every day at Tanzanite Park which encompasses another drainage basin. 

“I do see a lot of green,” said Landscape and Learning program supervisor Cameo Williams.

She told FOX40 her team is working away from the water since the signs came up and she is keeping a close eye on the kids during their lunch period.

“So they will go down, there’s geese, there’s turtles down there, they will walk down to the water and skip rocks and things like that, so I do have to watch that,” Williams said.

She said fishermen and dog owners should also beware. 

“We have a dog park at this park and it’s also next to the water, so you don’t want the pets to go and lick the water or anything like that,” Williams said.

City officials expect to put up more warning signs because conditions for algae growth are expected to get worse. 

California water control board inspectors first detected toxic algae in North Natomas after residents suspected that ducks in the area were being affected by the toxins.

Additional testing and monitoring will take place through the summer. 

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