(WESTCLIFFE, Colo.) — Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) is warning the public to avoid a growing bloom of toxic blue-green algae at DeWeese Reservoir State Wildlife Area near Westcliffe.

“Algae has become a seasonal problem at DeWeese, forcing CPW in recent summers to close the water to all activity except fishing to prevent the risk of exposure to humans and their pets,” said CPW District Wildlife Manager Justin Krall. “This year, the algae bloom was delayed. But now it’s happening and people need to take precautions.”

CPW warned that the algae can be harmful to people and pets if touched, and is possibly fatal if ingested. Signs are now posted at the reservoir, warning people to keep their kids and pets out of the water. “The signs warn people not to drink the water and no water recreation including swimming, skiing, paddle-boarding, and wading,” CPW explained.

CPW said the warning comes after recent testing found dangerous levels of toxicity in the water, along with elevated levels of blue-green algae. “You can still fish during an algae bloom,” Krall clarified. “But there should be no skin-to-water contact.”

CPW said it’s important to properly clean and thoroughly cook any fish before eating, as CPW warned that toxins can build up inside the fish.

Along with the CPW warning, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) recommends the following:

  • Keep kids out
  • No pets in the water
  • Do not drink the water
  • Avoid contact with algae
  • If exposed, shower immediately

“The public can help reduce the occurrence of blue-green algae blooms by preventing nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) from entering waterways through responsible use of lawn fertilizers, picking up pet waste, and avoiding using deicers that contain urea,” wrote CPW.