I recently started working on a research project about the Utah Lake located in Provo, purely formatted off of its blatantly complicated ecosystem. Originally, my goal was to create a customized plan to fix what I had thought was an algae epidemic but as I furthered my research I started to pin together some common characteristics. I concluded, stating the lake as an epidemic is articulating false information that has helped form a rumor off of the lake’s misconceptions circulating through the media. Certain metaphors used to describe the lake are being misunderstood by the public.

Military metaphors make comparisons between war and something that is traditionally not considered war-like, for example, the lake and its fight against algae. These metaphors create misinterpretations, allowing the audience to compile false opinions that revolve around the idea that we’re “fighting” the algae bloom in the lake, which isn’t accurate. I knew that if I wanted the full story of the lake’s problematic features, I would have to start at the source.

My first step was to visit Eric Ellis, the head of the Utah Lake Commission. I started my interview by asking some start-up questions, “Eric, many people are not aware that the Utah Lakes problem isn’t as problematic as it’s portrayed, why do you think that is?” Eric responded by saying, “Most people don’t seem to bother with fully understanding the lake’s features, they simply do not care enough because of the idea that the lake is dangerous.” It’s sad to think that people who call Utah home aren’t aware of the lake’s potential due to the information that’s being written about the lake in a negative and streamlined format. I can declare that when people read articles written in scientific format, much like the Utah Lake and its “over growing abundant algae problem,” people tend to be confused and feel overloaded. I noted that this may be the reason why Utah Lake has decreased in popularity over the years.

After speaking with Eric, I was able to actualize my information. It turns out that the Utah Lake’s algae problem isn’t even a problem at all. It’s pretty normal for a lake in the Midwest to appear greenish due to algae and in this case, cyanobacteria. Eric further explained to me that they have some of the top scientists in America working on the lake and “when blooms start-up, we have satellite data that we review a couple of times a week. Where the concentrated spots are located, we run tests on and find the four major toxins of concerns. If there is a level of concern, it is reported and advisory around the lake is implemented.” About 70% of the lake’s nutrients come from the nitrogen and phosphorus that is not being cycled out by the wastewater treatment centers because of the costs and lack of technology, until now.

The overall count of nutrients left in our wastewater after being treated is projected to drop in 2020 when a new regulation will be implemented at the treatment centers, reversing the blooms from occurring because the algae won’t be triggered by these new conditions. My overall concern now would be that people won’t receive accurate, updated information about the health of the lake and will continue to miss out. Information that is fed to the public through the media must be described in full form, even when uncertainty occurs it should be represented in the given information allowing us as readers to be able to understand the full length of the information at our consent. Utah Lake is a thriving ecosystem that people are overlooking because of false information due to the lack of science represented in the journalists’ writing. Moving forward, we need to work together to spread the truth about Utah Lake and its appealing new lifestyle in hopes of bringing back what was once known and always has been a great lake!

Anna Lee is a sophomore at the University of Utah studying environmental sustainability with an emphasis in ecological literacy and social change.