Ohio Water Quality

The 2024 algal bloom is expected to have a severity index of 5, according to the final forecast from the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration (NOAA). This forecast, based on a 1 to 10 scale, uses an ensemble of different models, which consider phosphorus loading into Lake Erie during the spring and early summer.

The mainly wet weather pattern in early spring caused the flow of water systems within the Western Lake Erie Basin to be above normal in March and April, creating what is considered a  “mildly severe” algal bloom forecast by NOAA.

“It’s important to note that more of the heavier spring rainfalls occurred well before nutrients were applied to farm fields for the 2024 growing season,” said Jordan Hoewischer, director of water quality research with Ohio Farm Bureau. “It will be interesting to see how the bloom acts in the heart of summer, and if the bloom is above the range of past years, we have to really assess the data and learn more about where the nutrient load is coming from.”

Hoewischer said the timing of the rains, planting season and applications of fertilizer this spring should emphasize the importance of the use of cover crops, one of the programs farmers are utilizing through H2Ohio, to keep nutrients and soil in place throughout the year.

The latest reports from the Lake Erie Commission show a consistent downward trend of dissolved reactive phosphorus loading into the Western Lake Erie Basin since 2015.

“To be able to realize success in reducing nutrient loss over the past 10 years despite the challenge of increasing heavy rainfall events is no small feat,” Hoewischer said. “Ohio agriculture has proven its role in improving water quality, but there is plenty of work left to do. Farmers should consult their local Soil & Water districts and consider H2Ohio about all of the options available to them to continue to protect the soil on the farm and the water heading downstream.”

With the expansion of the H2Ohio water quality initiative throughout the entire state, along with the growth of the Ohio Agriculture Conservation Initiative certification program, both designed to help farmers find more and better nutrient management practices, efforts will continue to advance across Ohio to create positive results for clean water.

NOAA will release the final algal bloom statistics for 2024 in September.

Ohio Farm Bureau’s mission is working together for Ohio farmers to advance agriculture and strengthen our communities. Learn more at ohiofarmbureau.org.

This is a news release for use by journalists. Questions should be directed to Ty Higgins, 614-246-8231 or [email protected].

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