NEW Water partners with NASA to monitor water quality

Local News

Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, has been an issue in lower Green Bay for several decades. Now, with a partnership with NASA, NEW Water will have the ability to better detect and understand this toxin which can be harmful to humans and animals.

“Green Bay has a couple of different water quality issues. We have a lot of nutrients in Green Bay. The Fox River is a source for around 70 percent of the nutrients for lower Green Bay and those nutrients and suspended solids stick within the lower portion of the bay and also move along the eastern shore. So, because of that, you’re providing just a bunch of nutrients and fuel for something called blue-green algae or cyanobacteria.” -Sarah Bartlett -NEW Water Resource Specialist

An instrument called SeaPRISM is located in the open water of Green Bay. The device measures the color of the water which helps enhance other water quality products that come from satellites operated by NASA. Green Bay is one of three freshwater bodies of water in the U.S. that have deployed the SeaPRISM. The other two locations are Lake Okeechobee in Florida along with Grizzly Bay in California which also suffer from algae blooms similar to Green Bay.

“There has been a consistent occurrence of cyanobacteria bloom this last year. So, we basically justified why we’re doing this and deploying the SeaPRISM instrumentation to enable measurements of water quality to use in products from satellites. It was amazing to see that signature coming from cyanobacteria.” -Dr. Nima Pahlevan NASA Principal Investigator

Many organizations are working to resolve problems that lead to blue-green algae blooms which are responsible for creating dead zones in the bay.

“Cyanobacteria is a worldwide problem. There are a lot of scientists trying to find a cure for this, but cyanobacteria are some of the oldest organisms in the world, so they’re never going away. There are ways that we can help try to help mediate them by taking away some of the nutrients that help cyanobacteria not be as prevalent, but when we have windy days that will kind of break up some of the blooms. When it’s calm and you have these warm temperatures it’s really easy for the cyanobacteria to proliferate and really just be dominant in the water system”, says Bartlett.

The data will help scientists monitor water conditions that could be harmful for those near the water. While not possible now, researchers hope this data could help forecast future algae blooms in Green Bay.

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