(BOISE) As the summer heat descends on Idaho, be on the lookout for toxic algal outbursts in your favorite river, stream, lake, reservoir or pond. On July 8, South Central Public Health District and the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality issued a health warning about toxic algae, the first of the season for Idaho, for Salmon Falls Creek Reservoir, south of Twin Falls. 

These outbreaks are harmful to people, pets, livestock and wildlife. Swimming, wading or walking near water infested with them can irritate the eyes, throat and skin. In some instances, drinking water or ingesting food contaminated with toxic algae can lead to death.

Algae outbreaks occur when conditions in a waterbody – such as temperature and/or high levels of phosphorus or nitrates – promote the uncontrolled growth of algae. The most common toxic algae is cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, though they can be other colors, including red or brown.

Protect yourself, your loved ones, and your animals:

  • Check the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality’s harmful algae website
  • Don’t Drink the Water: Never drink untreated surface water even if you don’t see algae nearby.
  • Seek Medical Attention: If you’re in contact with water and begin to feel irritation in your eyes, throat or nose, go to a doctor as soon as you can.
  • Call and report any suspected outbreak to DEQ at (208) 373-0502.

The Idaho Conservation League works to protect the air you breathe, water you drink, and wild places you and your family love. We work to make sure our rivers are flowing and are clean enough for people and fish to thrive. ICL also works to protect our groundwater, as that’s where the majority of Idahoans get their drinking water.