Signs of climate change are all around us. We see increased temperatures, melting sea ice and glaciers, ocean levels rising, and irregular weather patterns bringing the extremes of droughts and floods. Our water sources are impacted by these changes, shrinking water levels are becoming more evident in many places. Another side effect of these climate changes is the increased presence of Harmful Algae Blooms (HABs). HABs are caused by higher temperatures combined with human activities, like agriculture, which result in increased nutrients entering the water. An example of this phenomenon can be seen in Lake Erie, where algae blooms, already a common occurrence in the summer, have become a much larger presence in recent decades as a result of higher temperatures and increased phosphorus from agricultural runoff. In August of this year, the bloom was measured to be spread across 620 square miles.
The impact of this environmental occurrence is substantial, and consequently, both the United States and Canada have agreed to reductions in phosphorous loading to support bloom control. A recent study entitled “Estimating the economic costs of algal blooms in the Canadian Lake Erie Basin” examines the financial implications of HABs on the Canadian part of Lake Erie. The results of the study “suggest that algal blooms will impose equivalent annual costs equal to $272 million in 2015 prices over a 30-year period if left unchecked.” Similarly, Dr. Sam Miller, Associate Professor at the University of Notre Dame, found that HABs effect the U.S., specifically Ohio’s, economy at an estimated rate of $100 million each year. The study found significant reduction in costs associated with the algal blooms when action is taken. The dual impact of human behavior and changing climate conditions can be seen around us every day; algae blooms are just another example. It will take a collaborative effort to undo what’s been done and to ensure that there are limited future impacts to both the environment and to the state budget.
 Smith, Robert B., et al. “Estimating the Economic Costs of Algal Blooms in the Canadian Lake Erie Basin.” Harmful Algae, Elsevier, 24 June 2019, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1568988319300915.
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