Algae, including blue-green algae (aka cyanobacteria), can be normally found in many water environments, such as the Russian River. When high temperatures and increased nutrient levels in the water occur, algae can grow more rapidly than normal. This creates blooms of algae that may cluster together to look like a mat floating on the surface of the water. Most algae is harmless; however, some species of BGA, classified as harmful algal blooms (HABs), produce toxins that can harm the health of humans and animals.
Throughout the summer of 2020, the Environmental Health & Safety Section (EHS) of the Sonoma County Department of Health Services (DHS) and the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (NCRWQCB) will continue the Pilot Program of monitoring conditions along the Russian River.
Currently, there are no health advisories in place and the Russian River is open to visitors. Should conditions change to support the growth of blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) and HABs, information will be posted on the County webpage along with any health precautions recommended by DHS. Information will be updated regularly.
Healthy Water Habits
At all times, DHS encourages individuals to follow healthy water habits for recreational river use:
- Do not drink river water. Do not cook or wash dishes with river water
- Wash yourself and your family with clean water after river play
- Consume fish only after removing guts and liver, and rinsing fillets in clean water. Mercury has been detected in fish from the Russian River. Check here for additional guidance regarding mercury in fish: https://oehha.ca.gov/advisories/russian-river
- Bring your life jacket, but leave the alcohol at home. The side effects of alcohol – impaired judgment, reduced balance, poor coordination – can be magnified by the boating environment. For additional safety tips please visit the State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways: http://dbw.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=28711.