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Algae growth in Inks Lake is increasing as the weather grows warmer, something that could soon affect the other Highland Lakes, according to the Lower Colorado River Authority.

“Algae growth is occurring in some parts of Inks Lakes and other Highland Lakes, as is typical for this time of year,” according to LCRA spokesperson Clara Tuma. “On Inks Lake, algae is largely concentrated in coves, which experience more stagnation than the open portions of the lake.”

LCRA biologists anticipate “significant” algae growth through the summer.

Tuma added that a number of factors contribute to algae growth, including warm water temperatures, sunlight, and concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus nutrients. In addition, LCRA has temporarily suspended water releases from Lake Buchanan into Inks Lake while crews conduct work on transmission lines near Inks Dam.

The releases are expected to resume in mid-May, which will increase water movement through Inks Lake. 

Along with natural causes, human land-use activities can contribute to algae growth. LCRA recommends the following actions to reduce human-related sources of nutrients:

  • Don’t dump lawn clippings, leaves, or yard waste into storm drains, creekbeds, lakes, or other waterways.
  • Reduce the use of fertilizers on lawns. Most established lawns don’t need additional phosphorus to be healthy. 
  • Have your septic system inspected and pumped at least every three to five years to help ensure it operates properly.
  • Pick up and properly dispose of pet waste.
  • Use slit fences, containment barriers, and other best management practices at residential and commercial construction sites to prevent runoff of nutrient-laden sediment.
  • Plant and maintain vegetative buffer strips along shorelines, preferably with native plants.

While vegetation can help filter runoff before it enters the lakes, native plants are more effective than most grasses found in residential lawns, LCRA officials said. The website Remarkable Riparian offers free digital lessons on river areas.

LCRA officials also added that manually removing algae is the most effective way to manage it as algaecides provide limited effectiveness and can pose a threat to people, pets, and water quality. 

Since February 2021, LCRA has been monitoring algae for toxicity in the Highland Lakes chain. So far in 2022, officials have not detected any toxicity in the Highland Lakes that could be of concern for people and/or their pets. The LCRA tests monthly for toxicity. 

Even though no toxicity has been detected, officials recommend people treat all algae as toxic and avoid contact with it. Visit the LCRA’s Algae in the Highland Lakes webpage for updates and more information.