With the summer heat now in full-force, the City of Austin is warning of a possible resurgence of toxic-blue-green algae in some area waterways, including Lady Bird Lake. Last year, the algae killed several dogs after they swam. City staff is sending samples to UT for testing, and results are expected next week.
With the coming of summer, Austin has entered a time of increased risk for harmful algae. The Watershed Protection Department has begun weekly monitoring of algae from four locations on Lady Bird Lake. A harmful algae bloom occurs when Cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, produce toxins. Warm water, low flow through the lake and high levels of nutrients make harmful algae more likely.
The monitoring locations are Red Bud Isle, the mouth of Barton Creek, Vic Mathias Shores and Festival Beach. On Thursday, July 9, staff collected samples from all of these locations except the mouth of Barton Creek, where they did not observe concerning algae. Staff will send the algae samples to the University of Texas where researchers will identify the algae species, perform DNA finger printing and test for toxins.
Testing results from the initial samples should be available next week. A summary of results will be posted at AustinTexas.gov/algae.
Dogs were particularly vulnerable to the harmful algae bloom that occurred last year. At least five dogs died after swimming in Lady Bird Lake during the summer of 2019. The City of Austin is recommending that dog owners be cautious about allowing their dogs in Lady Bird Lake in the summer and fall.
Dog owners should take the following precautions:
- Check AustinTexas.gov/algae for the latest information before taking their dogs to the lake.
- Avoid areas with floating mats of algae or stagnant areas of the lake.
- Rinse dogs after contact with Lady Bird Lake to help prevent them from licking algae off their fur.
Dog owners should take their pets to a veterinarian immediately if their dogs become sick after swimming in Lady Bird Lake. Please also report the illness to 3-1-1. Symptoms of exposure may include:
- Excessive drooling, vomiting and diarrhea
- Foaming at the mouth
- Jaundice and hepatomegaly
- Blood in urine or dark urine
- Loss of appetite
- Photosensitization in recovering animals
- Abdominal tenderness
- Progression of muscle twitches
- Respiratory paralysis
Educational signage has been placed at six locations around Lady Bird Lake. If toxins are detected in the algae, additional signage will be placed in the same locations.
At this time, the risk to people appears low and people may continue to boat and fish, following COVID-19 restrictions in the “STAY HOME, MASK AND OTHERWISE BE SAFE” order. Swimming has been banned in Lady Bird Lake since 1964.