Waters Out of Whack

Fueled by warmer weather patterns, slow moving water, and human-caused pollution, harmful algae blooms are becoming more common across Oregon.

This June, people living in Salem were on alert with a drinking water advisory from toxic algae for nearly a month. Last summer, three people fell ill from ingesting toxic algae at Lake Billy Chinook, and 32 cows died in Southern Oregon from drinking water fouled by a harmful algae bloom.

These toxic outbreaks contaminate our drinking water and expose children and families to dangerous health risks, as well as threaten fish and wildlife that depend on clean rivers to live.

View our storymap below or online here to learn more about how algae affects communities and ecosystems across the state.

With this mapping project, we wanted to visualize how extensive the algae risk is across Oregon, explore how the underlying causes are different or the same in various parts of the state, and continue to add to the conversation about how to deal with this growing threat.

Understanding what is causing algae to explode in some areas is key to finding solutions that can protect public health, help Oregon businesses continue to thrive under these changing conditions, and preserve our environment and our summers for future generations.

At the end of the day, algae blooms are a symptom of a system out of balance. Investing upstream in healthy rivers, riparian areas and reducing runoff will be key to addressing to the root of this issue. Learn more about algae in Oregon here.


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3 Replies to "Waters Out of Whack"

  • Keri Handaly
    September 7, 2018 (7:14 pm)

    I loved the formatting and ease of navigating text and visual on this informative story about algae. I was surprised to see that nothing was included about the algae blooming every year near Ross Island on the Willamette which is posing risks to swimmers from Ross Island all the way down to St. Johns. (that said, I know swimmers who say they’ve continued doing it and have had no impacts on their skin or stomach–which is good!)

  • Deanna DeLong
    September 27, 2018 (7:13 pm)

    You are beyond amazing to compile all of this information! Thank you so much for keeping the public informed. The algae can just sneak up on us . . . and we are unaware until we can’t drink the water. You’re the best!! I’m fortunate because the water filter that I sell reduces cyanotoxins—the Multipure.

  • Patrick Curran
    September 27, 2018 (10:33 pm)

    Blue-green algae outbreaks have been documented in Oregon since the 1950s. The only difference s today are:
    1) Salem’s water supply is affected; and,
    2) people’s attention has been focused on the problem.
    Practically, the South Umpqua River receives many times the enrichment compared to the South Santiam above Detroit. No recent documented evidence of cyanotoxins in the South Umpqua.
    There is a lot we don’t know about the outbreaks, and it is prudent to increase pressure on the water quality scientists at DEQ to assess the problem and deal with it without histrionics from faux experts.