Toxic algae starts upstream! Pollution sources of toxic algae

Pollution sources that lead to toxic algae blooms

This weekend’s heavy rainfall and the ensuing excessive runoff show how easily home and municipal waste systems, agricultural practices and heavy runoff can exceed the ability of the land to carry the excess nutrients.

The following infographic shows the contributors to toxic algae blooms:


Toxic Algae Starts upstream

Toxic Algae Starts upstream
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Infographic from

Toxic algae starts upstream from these pollution sources:

  • Wastewater Systems – Wastewater treatment plants don’t remove all the excess nutrients that flow from homes and businesses.
  • Agricultural Practices – Livestock manure and excess fertilizer wash off the land and into waterways, making agriculture the biggest source of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in the US.
  • Stormwater Runoff – Rainwater and snowmelt run off streets, rooftops and sidewalks into storm sewers that lead to local rivers and streams.
  • Homes – Aging septic tanks, garden fertilizers, pet waste and some soaps and detergents are all sources of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution.
  • Fossil Fuels – Coal and gas-generated electricity, cars and airplanes are all sources of nitrogen pollution in the air and water.

Lakes, rivers and reservoirs become flooded with nitrogen and phosphorus pollution. Algae, including cyanobacteria (also known as toxic algae blooms or outbreaks) feed upon this nutrient pollution and cloud the water with green, red or yellow scum, releasing noxious odors and sometimes killing fish, and sickening pets, livestock and people.


Toxic Algae Starts upstream with Runoff from Farm fields

Toxic algae starts upstream where unprotected farm fields yield topsoil as well as farm fertilizers and other potential pollutants when heavy rains occur.


What can be done to reduce pollution sources that lead to toxic algae?


  • Protect wetlands from development and agriculture to maintain a healthier environment for fish, wildlife & plants, and make it harder for toxic algae to take hold.
  • Toxic algae starts upstream. use 35 gallon rain barrel / planter  to prevent runoff

    35 Gallon Rain Barrel / Planter
    24″ wide x 28″ high.
    Features built-in planter and shut off valve with hose hook-up. Collect runoff from the roof and store it for later use.
    Order Rain Barrel / Planter Here

    Plant farmland with cover crops between cash crops – protects soil from erosion and absorbs excess fertilizer, helping to keep nutrients out of nearby waterways.

  • Create and maintain natural buffers – using trees, shrubs and other plants between farmland, development and waterways helps to filter out excess nitrogen and phosphorus before they can reach the water.
  • Don’t “P” on the lawn. Excess phosphorus (P) in lawn fertilizers can wash right into waterways providing a ready food source for cyanobacteria.
  • Use a Rain Barrel, collect runoff from the roof, store it for later use and minimize erosion of topsoil at the same time.