Tracking Toxic Algae From Space

Many of the lakes we manage are aging and as nutrient levels build, they have a greater tendency to produce cyanobacteria or toxic blue green algae.  This poses a challenge to us as Lake Managers.  Are we sampling as often as we need to for this lake?  Are we collecting samples at the right place?  Is algae accumulating elsewhere through wind and wave action and we aren’t seeing it in our normal rounds?  There are all questions that can be answered with Blue Water Satellite.

Aquatechnex was one of the first lake management groups in the Country to recognize the technology Blue Water brings to the marketplace.  This company is built around patents developed by scientists at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.  Their technology uses LANDSAT imagery which collects a snapshot of every place on earth every few weeks and image processing technologies to isolate, identify, quantify and map water quality parameters of interest to us.  They have build algorithms for cyanobacteria focusing on pigments that are unique to that form of algae, chlorophyll a and phosphorus in water or land.

The image resolution is such that there are 5 pixels or sampling points on one surface acre, so if you image a 1,300 acre reservoir the data set would have 6,500 samples with results.  They assemble this in a report with statistics that you can access through their web site using a protected log in system.  You can also move this data as a geotiff into ArcGIS if you want to review further.

We use these low cost monthly data sets to keep on eye on key accounts beyond our regular visits.

This image shows a mid June snapshot of cyanobacteria levels and we note some detection in selected portions of the lake.  This leads to targeting these zones for control

This image shows a mid June snapshot of cyanobacteria levels and we note some detection in selected portions of the lake. This leads to targeting these zones for control

One of the more interesting projects we did was a monthly survey of Canyon and Elsinore Lakes from about 1990 through 2011 to help them understand the history of these parameters in the lake as part of their TMDL study work.  Since these scenes are archived you can go back in time and see what’s up if your interested.  We were just awarded the Alum treatment contract for Canyon Lake to mitigate phosphorus pollution in that system and help comply with TMDL programs.  We are planning to do some before and after imagery on that work.  We also targeted the image collection dates to water quality sampling events they had performed on the lake and got excellent correlation.

 

Two weeks later treatment results are clear, we have successfully identified and stopped a toxic algae bloom

Two weeks later treatment results are clear, we have successfully identified and stopped a toxic algae bloom

 

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *