Global & Disaster Medicine

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Red Tide & Florida: NOAA

NOAA

NEW: Summer 2018 Red Tide Event Affecting the West Coast of Florida

 Frequently Asked Questions:

What is happening?

An unusually persistent harmful algal bloom (red tide) is currently affecting portions of the southwest coast of Florida. For the latest updates on this event, visit the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission red tide status website or the NOAA Harmful Algal Bloom Bulletin.

How long will this red tide last?

If and when bloom the current bloom will end remains an open-ended question. Red tides can last as little as a few weeks or longer than a year. They can even subside and then reoccur. In 2005, for example, a bloom started off the coast of St. Petersburg, Florida, in January and then spread from there to Pensacola and Naples by October, persisting for the majority of the year. The duration of a bloom in nearshore Florida waters depends on physical and biological conditions that influence its growth and persistence, including sunlight, nutrients, and salinity, as well as the speed and direction of wind and water currents. Researchers are watching oceanographic conditions in the region carefully and using forecasting tools similar to seasonal weather forecasts to predict how long this bloom will last.

map of redtide

NOAA issues twice weekly forecasts to monitor bloom conditions during a harmful algal bloom event.

What is NOAA’s role in responding to this red tide event?

NOAA conducts scientific research and provides forecasts to give communities advance warnings to better deal with the adverse environmental impacts, health effects and economic losses associated with red tide and other harmful algal bloom events.

NOAA monitors conditions year round and provides official forecasts for red tide through two main products: conditions reports and bulletins. The conditions report identifies if red tide cell concentrations are present and provides forecasts of the highest potential level of respiratory irritation over the next three to four days. Bulletins provide decision-makers with a more in-depth analysis of the location of a current bloom and reported impacts, as well as forecasts of potential development, intensification, transport, and associated impacts of blooms. Both products are updated twice weekly during a bloom.

In addition, NOAA and a network of trained and authorized professionals from state and local organizations work together to respond to stranded marine animals found along the coastline during these events.

Can this red tide event be stopped?

There are currently no means of controlling the occurrence of red tide.

Is this red tide dangerous?

The Florida red tide organism, Karenia brevis, produces potent neurotoxins, called brevetoxins, that can affect the central nervous system of many animals, causing them to die. That is why red tides are often associated with fish kills. Mortalities of other species, including manatees, dolphins, sea turtles, and birds also occur.

Wave action near beaches can break open K. brevis cells and release the toxins into the air, leading to respiratory irritation. For people with severe or chronic respiratory conditions, such as emphysema or asthma, red tide can cause serious illness. People with respiratory problems should avoid affected beaches during red tides.

Red tide toxins can also accumulate in filter-feeders mollusks such as oysters and clams, which can lead to Neurotoxic Shellfish Poisoning (NSP) in people who consume contaminated shellfish. While not fatal, NSP causes diarrhea and discomfort for about three days. Rigorous state monitoring of cells and toxins is conducted to close commercial shellfish harvesting if necessary to protect human health. Recreational shellfish harvesters should check State web pages to make sure it is safe to consume shellfish.

Is it still safe to go to the beach?

Some areas may be more affected than others. Check NOAA forecasts to assist in locating unaffected areas, and learn more about red tide health concerns from Florida Health.

Is this normal?

This year’s bloom is different from what we’ve seen before in several ways:

Timing: Blooms of this alga typically start in late summer or early fall. The last large early summer bloom was in 2005. The current bloom started last fall and is still going.

Duration: While not unprecedented in its duration, this bloom is unusually persistent. It started in October 2017 and continued through spring of 2018. By early summer, the bloom resurged and was detected in five southwest Florida counties. Some shellfish harvesting areas have been closed since November 2017.

Size: The size of the bloom changes from week to week, and it is patchy. Not every beach is affected every day, so it is important to stay up to date with the NOAA conditions report. As of August 15, the bloom stretched from Pinellas County to Collier County, more than 150 miles.

While the timing, duration, and size of this red tide are unusual, red tides are not new to the Gulf Coast. Red tides were documented in the southern Gulf of Mexico as far back as the 1700s and along Florida’s Gulf coast in the 1840s. Fish kills near Tampa Bay were even mentioned in the records of Spanish explorers. For more information on historical red tide events in Florida, see the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s harmful algal bloom monitoring database.

What do you do if you see sick, injured, stranded, or dead wildlife?

If you see sick, injured, or stranded wildlife, such as a sea turtle, manatee, dolphin, seabird, or a large fish kill in Florida, report it to the following standing network hotlines. To report an injured, hooked, entangled, or stranded sea turtle, call 1-877-942-5343. To report other sick or injured wildlife and fish kills, contact FWC Wildlife Alert or call 888-404-FWCC (888-404-3922). If you see dead or injured marine mammals, call 1-877-WHALE HELP (1-877-942-5343). You can also report via the Dolphin and Whale 911 Phone App.

What is the projected effect of this red tide on marine life? How long will it take for impacted marine life to recover?

There is no way to project the cumulative effects of this red tide event. Red tide occurs naturally in coastal waters of the Gulf of Mexico with blooms appearing seasonally. Although the Florida red tide organism, Karenia brevis, typically blooms between August and December, blooms often deviate from that time frame. The current bloom continues to be monitored by our local and state partners. Visit the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) red tide status page. Reports of fish kills and marine animal deaths are made publicly available on FWC’s website. For more information on the effects of red tide on marine animals, shellfish, and people, visit our health information page for more information.

Can NOAA provide travel advice for people planning to visit this region?

While NOAA provides regional harmful algal bloom forecasts and supports research to better understand the causes, impacts, and effects of these events, we are not in a position to provide travel advice. We have provided links to Florida state resources in the right column of this announcement that we hope will help people make informed decisions about their travel plans.

red circle icon with Florida in white in center

Resources for More Information:

NOAA Resources

Florida Resources

Contact Us

General Information about Red Tide and NOAA’s Role in HAB Forecasting

What is red tide?

Harmful algal blooms occur nearly every summer along the nation’s coasts. Often, the blooms turn the water a deep red. While many people call all such events “red tides,” scientists prefer the term harmful algal bloom or HAB. A red tide or HAB results from the rapid growth of microscopic algae. Some produce toxins that have harmful effects on people, fish, marine mammals, and birds.  In Florida and Texas, this is primarily caused by the harmful algae species Karenia brevis. Red tide can result in varying levels of eye and respiratory irritation for people, which may be more severe for those with preexisting respiratory conditions (such as asthma). The blooms can also cause large fish kills and discolored water along the coast.

illustration of redtide

Red Tide in Florida and Texas

Red Tide in Florida and Texas is caused by the rapid growth of a microscopic algae called Karenia brevis. When large amounts of this algae are present, it can cause a harmful algal bloom (HAB) that can be seen from space. NOAA issues HAB forecasts based on satellite imagery and cell counts of Karenia brevis collected in the field and analyzed by NOAA partners. | Transcript

How Does the NOAA Forecast Work?

NOAA uses a combination of satellite imagery and water samples of the algae species Karenia brevis, collected from the field by local partners, to forecast the location and intensity of red tide events.  Satellite imagery is a key tool for detecting blooms before they reach the coast, verifying bloom movement and forecasting potential respiratory irritation.

illustration of redtide

Why Should You Care?

Red Tide in Florida and Texas produces a toxin that may have harmful effects on marine life. For people, The toxin may also become airborne, which can lead to eye irritation and respiratory issues in people. People with serious respiratory conditions such as asthma may experience more severe symptoms.| Transcript

Putting the Forecast into Action

The condition reports for red tide in Florida and Texas are available to the public and give the daily level of respiratory irritation forecasts by coastal region. NOAA also issues HAB bulletins that contain analyses of ocean color satellite imagery, field observations, models, public health reports, and buoy data. The bulletins also contain forecasts of potential Karenia brevis bloom transport, intensification, and associated respiratory irritation based on the analysis of information from partners and data providers. The bulletins are primarily issued to public health managers, natural resource managers, and scientists interested in HABs.  A week after the the bulletin is issued, it is posted to the Bulletin Archive where the public can access it.

illustration of redtide

Making Choices

State and local resources are available to help beachgoers find nearby beaches and coastal areas that are not affected by red tide, but are still nearby. | Transcript

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illustration of redtide

NOAA Forecasts Can Save Your Beach Day

By paying attention to NOAA’s HAB forecasts, beachgoers can still have a good time along the Florida and Texas coast. The conditions report for Red Tide in Florida and Texas can
be found online. | Transcript

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Infographic Transcript: Red Tide

Red Tide in Florida and Texas is caused by the rapid growth of a microscopic algae called Karenia brevis. When large amounts of this algae are present, it can cause a harmful algal bloom (HAB) that can be seen from space. NOAA issues HAB forecasts based on satellite imagery and cell counts of Karenia brevis collected in the field and analyzed by NOAA partners.

Why should you care? Red Tide in Florida and Texas produces a toxin that can have harmful effects for marine life. For people, the toxin can become airborne and cause respiratory issues and eye irritation. These symptoms can be more severe for people with serious respiratory issues such as asthma.

Making Choices. State and local resources are available to help beachgoers find beaches and coastal areas that are not impacted by Red Tide, but are still nearby.


India: “suffering from the worst water crisis in its history”

Thomas Reuters

  • 600 million people – nearly half India’s population – face acute water shortage
  • Close to 200,000 die each year from polluted water.
  • Nearly 70 percent of India’s water is contaminated, impacting three in four Indians and contributing to 20 percent of the country’s disease burden.
  • 21 major cities, including New Delhi and India’s IT hub of Bengaluru, will run out of groundwater by 2020, affecting 100 million people.


About 600 million Indians are facing high to extreme stress over water

Al Jazeera

India Water Crisis Document

“…..India is suffering from the worst water crisis in its history and millions of lives and livelihoods are under threat. Currently, 600 million Indians face high to extreme water stress and about two lakh people die every year due to inadequate access to safe water1. The crisis is only going to get worse. By 2030, the country’s water demand is projected to be twice the available supply, implying severe water scarcity for hundreds of millions of people and an eventual ~6% loss in the country’s GDP….”

 


Global Drowning: 3.72 million drown annually in the world

WHO on Drowning

“…..WHO in its latest report on drowning reported that 3,72,000 people die every year worldwide due to drowning. 90 per cent of these deaths takes place in LMIC’s (Low and middle income countries). It is a major contributor towards mortality rates in south east Asia……”

 


March 22: World Water Day

CDC

World Water Day is observed each year on March 22 to promote the responsible use of water and access to safe water for everyone. Around the world, 844 million people still do not have a basic drinking water service.1

Water is one of our most important natural resources. Every day, people, animals, and plants depend on water for their survival. Water is necessary for growing food, energy production, individual well-being, and global health.

Waterborne Disease Prevention Around the World

Clean and safe drinking water sustains human life. Without it, waterborne diseases can spread, sickening and sometimes killing adults and children. CDC’s Global Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) experts work to improve global access to safe water, proper sanitation, and hygiene. CDC experts strengthen WASH efforts in response to humanitarian crises and natural disasters and respond to life-threatening outbreaks of waterborne diseases around the world, including outbreaks of cholera, hepatitis, and typhoid fever. CDC also works closely with other U.S. government agencies, foreign Ministries of Health, non-governmental organizations, UN Agencies, private companies, and various international agencies to improve global access to healthy and safe water, proper sanitation, and hygiene.

The United Nations established a sustainable development goal of improving access to safe water and sanitation facilities. Between 2000 and 2015, over 1 billion people gained access to piped water supplies with the potential to deliver safe water for everyday use (for example, tap water in households or public stand posts that provide piped water). Between 1990 and 2015, more than 2 billion people gained access to an improved sanitation facility (a toilet or latrine designed to ensure that people do not come in contact with waste). Despite these improvements, 844 million people still did not have access to a safe drinking water source, and 2.3 billion still did not have access to an improved sanitation facility. Some 892 million people defecate in the open because they do not have access to any type of toilet or latrine.1

Lack of safe drinking water and toilets increases the chance for outbreaks of waterborne diseases like typhoid fever, hepatitis, and cholera. Typhoid, hepatitis, and cholera germs can spread when human waste containing the germs gets into a community’s water supply. That happens when people do not have access to a sanitation facility that can dispose of waste properly. Although rare in the United States, outbreaks of cholera and typhoid continue to occur in low resource countries. Together, these diseases kill from 149,000 to 304,000 men, women, and children each year.2,3

Now is the time to address these challenges to keep the global water supply safe and available for generations to come.

Visit the United Nations’ World Water Day website for more information on World Water Day and ideas on how to get involved.

World Water Day also presents an opportunity to learn about water-related issues that affect us locally. For more information about CDC’s water-related public health efforts in the United States, visit these websites: Drinking Water, Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene-Related Emergency; and Healthy Swimming.


Cape Town residents have drastically lowered their water use, allowing their drought-plagued city to push back the dreaded “Day Zero” by more than 10 weeks.

NY Times

“…..Cape Town has cut its water consumption to 523 million liters a day…..and less than half of what it was four years ago, before the drought began.….”

 


11 global cities most likely to run out of drinking water

BBC

Cape Town is in the unenviable situation of being the first major city in the modern era to face the threat of running out of drinking water.

However, the plight of the drought-hit South African city is just one extreme example of a problem that experts have long been warning about – water scarcity.

Despite covering about 70% of the Earth’s surface, water, especially drinking water, is not as plentiful as one might think. Only 3% of it is fresh.

Over one billion people lack access to water and another 2.7 billion find it scarce for at least one month of the year. A 2014 survey of the world’s 500 largest cities estimates that one in four are in a situation of “water stress”

According to UN-endorsed projections, global demand for fresh water will exceed supply by 40% in 2030, thanks to a combination of climate change, human action and population growth.

…. Here are the other 11 cities most likely to run out of water.

1. São Paulo

Brazil’s financial capital and one of the 10 most populated cities in the world went through a similar ordeal to Cape Town in 2015, when the main reservoir fell below 4% capacity.

At the height of the crisis, the city of over 21.7 million inhabitants had less than 20 days of water supply and police had to escort water trucks to stop looting.

 

It is thought a drought that affected south-eastern Brazil between 2014 and 2017 was to blame, but a UN mission to São Paulo was critical of the state authorities “lack of proper planning and investments”.

The water crisis was deemed “finished” in 2016, but in January 2017 the main reserves were 15% below expected for the period – putting the city’s future water supply once again in doubt.

2. Bangalore

Local officials in the southern Indian city have been bamboozled by the growth of new property developments following Bangalore’s rise as a technological hub and are struggling to manage the city’s water and sewage systems.

To make matters worse, the city’s antiquated plumbing needs an urgent upheaval; a report by the national government found that the city loses over half of its drinking water to waste.

Like China, India struggles with water pollution and Bangalore is no different: an in-depth inventory of the city’s lakes found that 85% had water that could only be used for irrigation and industrial cooling.

Not a single lake had suitable water for drinking or bathing.

3. Beijing

The World Bank classifies water scarcity as when people in a determined location receive less than 1,000 cubic metres of fresh water per person.

In 2014, each of the more than 20 million inhabitants of Beijing had only 145 cubic metres.

China is home to almost 20% of the world’s population but has only 7% of the world’s fresh water.

A Columbia University study estimates that the country’s reserves declined 13% between 2000 and 2009

And there’s also a pollution problem. Official figures from 2015 showed that 40% of Beijing’s surface water was polluted to the point of not being useful even for agriculture or industrial use.

The Chinese authorities have tried to address the problem by creating massive water diversion projects. They have also introduced educational programmes, as well as price hikes for heavy business users.

4. Cairo

Once crucial to the establishment of one of the world’s greatest civilisations, the River Nile is struggling in modern times.

It is the source of 97% of Egypt’s water but also the destination of increasing amounts of untreated agricultural, and residential waste.

World Health Organization figures show that Egypt ranks high among lower middle-income countries in terms of the number of deaths related to water pollution.

The UN estimates critical shortages in the country by 2025.

5. Jakarta

Like many coastal cities, the Indonesian capital faces the threat of rising sea levels.

But in Jakarta the problem has been made worse by direct human action. Because less than half of the city’s 10 million residents have access to piped water, illegal digging of wells is rife. This practice is draining the underground aquifers, almost literally deflating them.

As a consequence, about 40% of Jakarta now lies below sea level, according to World Bank estimates.

To make things worse, aquifers are not being replenished despite heavy rain because the prevalence of concrete and asphalt means that open fields cannot absorb rainfall.

6. Moscow

One-quarter of the world’s fresh water reserves are in Russia, but the country is plagued by pollution problems caused by the industrial legacy of the Soviet era.

That is specifically worrying for Moscow, where the water supply is 70% dependent on surface water.

Official regulatory bodies admit that 35% to 60% of total drinking water reserves in Russia do not meet sanitary standard

7. Istanbul

According to official Turkish government figures, the country is technically in a situation of a water stress, since the per capita supply fell below 1,700 cubic metres in 2016.

Local experts have warned that the situation could worsen to water scarcity by 2030.

In recent years, heavily populated areas like Istanbul (14 million inhabitants) have begun to experience shortages in the drier months.

The city’s reservoir levels declined to less than 30 percent of capacity at the beginning of 2014.

8. Mexico City

Water shortages are nothing new for many of the 21 million inhabitants of the Mexican capital.

One in five get just a few hours from their taps a week and another 20% have running water for just part of the day.

The city imports as much as 40% of its water from distant sources but has no large-scale operation for recycling wastewater. Water losses because of problems in the pipe network are also estimated at 40%.

9. London

Of all the cities in the world, London is not the first that springs to mind when one thinks of water shortages.

The reality is very different. With an average annual rainfall of about 600mm (less than the Paris average and only about half that of New York), London draws 80% of its water from rivers (the Thames and Lee).

According to the Greater London Authority, the city is pushing close to capacity and is likely to have supply problems by 2025 and “serious shortages” by 2040.

It looks likely that hosepipe bans could become more common in the future

10. Tokyo

The Japanese capital enjoys precipitation levels similar to that of Seattle on the US west coast, which has a reputation for rain. Rainfall, however, is concentrated during just four months of the year.

That water needs to be collected, as a drier-than-expected rainy season could lead to a drought. At least 750 private and public buildings in Tokyo have rainwater collection and utilisation systems.

Home to more than 30 million people, Tokyo has a water system that depends 70% on surface water (rivers, lakes, and melted snow).

Recent investment in the pipeline infrastructure aims also to reduce waste by leakage to only 3% in the near future.

11. Miami

The US state of Florida is among the five US states most hit by rain every year. However, there is a crisis brewing in its most famous city, Miami.

An early 20th Century project to drain nearby swamps had an unforeseen result; water from the Atlantic Ocean contaminated the Biscayne Aquifer, the city’s main source of fresh water.

Although the problem was detected in the 1930s, seawater still leaks in, especially because the American city has experienced faster rates of sea level rise, with water breaching underground defence barriers installed in recent decades.

Neighbouring cities are already struggling. Hallandale Beach, which is just a few miles north of Miami, had to close six of its eight wells due to saltwater intrusion.


Rain comes to Cape Town: The South African Weather Service recorded 6 millimeters of rain, or about 0.24 inches, at Cape Town’s Slangkop Lighthouse overnight.


Urban water demand will increase by 80% by 2050

Nature

Water competition between cities and agriculture driven by climate change and urban growth

Martina Flörke, Christof Schneider & Robert I. McDonald

Nature Sustainability 1, 51–58 (2018)

doi:10.1038/s41893-017-0006-8

“….We project an urban surface-water deficit of 1,3866,764 million m³. More than 27% of cities studied, containing 233 million people, will have water demands that exceed surface-water availability. An additional 19% of cities, which are dependent on surface-water transfers, have a high potential for conflict between the urban and agricultural sectors, since both sectors cannot obtain their estimated future water demands. ….”

 


Cape Town, Population 4 000 000, about to run out of water


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