A summer worth watching: The 2022 recreation season

posted on Friday, September 9, 2022 in Water and Land News

Just like that, we’ve come to the unofficial end of the summer recreational season. Weekly beach monitoring has ended for the year. Before we turn our focus fully to fall, let’s recap the major water stories of the summer. 

The 2021 drought extended into 2022, but timely June rains brought relief and led to fewer microcystin advisories than last year. In the 15-week monitoring period for 39 public beaches, Iowa DNR issued 12 beach advisories for microcystin and 108 for E. coli. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Rock Island District issued 4 advisories for E. coli on the six beaches it monitors on Iowa reservoirs (Saylorville Lake and Lake Red Rock).  

For the first time in six years, Backbone Beach did not have the most E. coli advisories – Lake Darling took the top spot with 14 advisories in 15 weeks. Lake Geode, Green Valley Lake, Lake Darling, and McIntosh Woods Beach at Clear Lake each had two microcystin advisories. 

Twelve microcystin advisories is about half compared to last year. Harmful algae blooms still made headlines though, especially in August. A few other major stories also drew the public’s attention to Iowa’s water quality this summer. 

  • The death of a Missouri resident infected by a “brain-eating amoeba” after swimming in the Lake of Three Fires in southwest Iowa made national headlines. This was the first case linking a death caused by “brain-eating amoeba” to an Iowa waterway. A child in Nebraska also died this summer from the brain-eating amoeba after swimming in the Elkhorn River. The amoeba is typically found in warmer waters in Southern states, highlighting the effect that a warming climate can have on water ecosystems.  
  • A koi herpes virus led to the die-off of thousands of carp in Storm Lake. The virus has previously been found in Minnesota and Wisconsin, but this was the first time it was detected in Iowa. The disease piled dead carp along the shore of the lake and created a horrible stench for local residents. An algae bloom also appeared as the fish decomposed, but DNR said the bloom was unrelated to the fish kill. The incident is unlikely to have a long-term impact on the lake or carp population, but it again sparked conversation about Iowa’s water quality issues and what should be done.  

Notable statistics from summer 2022 

  • North Twin Lake West Beach experienced its first advisory for microcystin in seven years. 
  • With 14 advisories for E. coli and two for microcystin, Lake Darling was under a swim advisory for 14 of the 15 weeks of the recreation season. (The week of June 17, the fourth week of the recreation season.) 
  • Since 2014, Backbone has experienced the most E. coli advisories of all monitored beaches at 118. 
  • Four beaches recorded advisories for both E. coli and microcystin. 
  • 25 state park beaches recorded swim advisories this summer. 14 state park beaches did not record an advisory. 
  1. beach advisories
  2. clean water
  3. e. coli
  4. harmful algal blooms
  5. microcystin
  6. public beaches
  7. recreation
  8. toxic algae
  9. water quality
  10. water recreation