The 2019 HABs Surveillance Program

Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs)



  • Most algal blooms are harmless. However, exposure to toxins and other substances from certain HABs can make people and animals sick.
  • Although most algal blooms are harmless, some types, called blue-green algae or cyanobacteria, can produce toxins that can be harmful to people and animals, especially dogs.
  • Over the past few years, HABs have appeared with increasing frequency in Owasco Lake. Typically they bloom later in the summer and early fall on warm, calm days.
  • In 2017, HABs were identified in all eleven Finger Lakes for the first time. HABs are appearing in fresh and salt water bodies world-wide.
  • We must face this clean water crisis. But it won’t be easy. Read on to learn how to protect yourself, and how you can help.


Follow safety guidelines from the Cayuga County Health Department to keep people and pets safe. Symptoms or health concerns related to HABs should be reported to the Cayuga County Health Department Website or by calling 315-253-1560.


In 2016, the DEC began a pilot project, the Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) Program, on Owasco Lake with trained volunteers from OWLA. Three years later, the program has grown state-wide.

For 2019, the DEC has unveiled a powerful new GIS-based, interactive map for both trained samplers and the public across New York State.

Starting in 2019:

The NYS DEC GIS-based Map!


  • HABs Program OWLA Volunteers monitored their assigned shoreline zones once a week starting July 8 through early October.
  • These weekly reports went to the DEC, as “no bloom sighted”, or a “confirmed bloom” along with a sample and photographs. Confirmed bloom information will be loaded by the volunteers directly onto the interactive DEC NYS map.
  • Visual confirmation of blooms from trained volunteers is accurate well over 90% of the time, according to the DEC.

To see the reported activity- go to the NYS DEC GIS-based, interactive map for both trained samplers and the public across New York State.

  • Check the map for daily updates about HABs reports for Owasco Lake or elsewhere
  • Yellow dots represent recent reports, gray dots reports two weeks old or more
  • Users can zoom in on particular areas, export, and print data


The Suspicious Algal Bloom Report Form!



  • People can report a suspected bloom by filling out the DEC Suspicious Algal Bloom Report Form to submit it to the DEC for review. If confirmed as a HAB it went on the map.
  • Photos can also be uploaded with the form:


HABs (Harmful Algal Blooms) can come and go hourly.  This makes updating the public on current conditions difficult to impossible.  Weekly summaries of HAB patterns on our lake helps increase our knowledge of when, where, and under what conditions HABs are most likely to occur.

The single most important strategy for keeping ourselves safe from HABs is to avoid discolored or scummy water.

What can you do to HELP?

Protecting Owasco Lake is essential to the maintenance of our community character and the improvement of our economic future. We encourage everyone to help the Owasco Watershed Lake Association personally and/or financially. By this commitment you will help keep Owasco Lake clean and safe.