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Toxic algae warning for Blue Mesa Reservoir

Stay away from the green in the lake

By Mark Reaman

The combination of unusually low water levels and warm weather is making parts of the Blue Mesa Reservoir a little dangerous for humans and their pets. Blue-green algae that produce cyanotoxins exceeding safe exposure levels have been confirmed in parts of the reservoir, particularly in the Iola Basin.

The National Park Service recommends avoiding any contact with shallow and near-shore waters of the Iola Basin. Use caution and avoid unnecessary exposure to reservoir water if fishing, boating or recreating. Other areas of Blue Mesa Reservoir may also contain these toxins. Avoid areas with suspected algal mats.

“We can see the presence of blue-green algae in most of the coves around the reservoir and have been water-testing various places,” explained Curecanti National Recreation Area public information officer Sandy Snell-Dobert. “We are still waiting on results to see if they too have cyanotoxins.”

Snell-Dobert said that so far no one has made a report that they have gotten sick as a result of contact with the algae. But she said that if the cyanotoxins are ingested they could cause symptoms that include diarrhea and vomiting. That goes not only for humans but also for dogs. So be aware that if your pet has been swimming in Blue Mesa and has unexplained diarrhea, that could be a cause.

“We recommend that if you experience symptoms or get a skin rash after being in Blue Mesa, you should seek medical attention. Everyone reacts differently,” Snell-Dobert explained.

She emphasized that people should be aware anywhere on the reservoir, as the algae can multiply rapidly to form blooms and scums, particularly in areas of shallow, warm water.

“It is obvious right now,” Snell-Dobert explained. “Look for algae mats—clumps of green or blue-green algae—and stay away. It is a naturally occurring organism but the challenge is when you get low water levels and water that heats up, it really gets the algae going. Right now the reservoir is at 35 percent of full, which is the lowest it’s been since 1977.”

Boating and fishing remains open throughout Blue Mesa. The park service suggests fishermen clean harvested fish in treated water. As always, remember to clean, drain, and dry all boats and fishing gear.

The park service is also recommending to not let dogs or other animals drink water from any portion of the Iola Basin. Until further notice, the park recommends that dogs not swim in or drink reservoir waters.

“It will eventually dissipate and go away,” said Snell-Dobert. “Hopefully we will have a good snow season and then some good summer monsoons to fill up the reservoir and it won’t be an issue.”


Updates can be obtained online at for advisories.

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