A new program – Climate Health Adaptation and Resilience Mobilizing (CHARM) – recently launched in Lake County to establish the first county-wide and coordinated action plan for addressing the impact of extreme heat events and harmful algal blooms (HABs) in communities.
Clear Lake in Lake County is California’s largest freshwater lake, providing drinking water to over 60% of the county’s residents, and driving the local economy through recreation and tourism. The lake is also an important cultural and natural resource for seven local Native American Tribes, including the Big Valley Band of Pomo Indians (Big Valley).
Severe heat events increase the chance of illness and death, especially among vulnerable populations. A warming climate may also be related to the local increase in HABs, which produce a toxin called microcystin that can affect the water supply and impact community health.
“We found that homes that rely on private drinking water supplied by Clear Lake have been contaminated with microcystin during harmful algal blooms. We know HABs are increasing in Lake County, and we’re concerned that more people will be at risk,” says Paul English, Principal Investigator of CHARM, referring to a recent study from Cal-WATCH, a program that he leads in collaboration with Big Valley and which prompted the development of the CHARM project.
“Within the Tribal community and seemingly throughout Lake County, people of this area are not fully prepared to face increasing heat waves and HABs. While it’s critical to continue monitoring these issues, we know there needs to be a plan in place to protect the sensitive populations from these impacts. There’s a lot to do – for example there aren’t any established cooling centers in the area. This project will help build resiliency for our communities,” explained Sarah Ryan, Environmental Director at Big Valley and Co-Investigator for the CHARM project.
To guide the project and the development of the action plan, the CHARM project is establishing a working group of representatives from local Tribes, county government, and community-based organizations that are engaged in emergency response.
“This project is an opportunity to begin addressing these critical issues in a collaborative way, and I’m honored to participate in this effort on behalf of the Lake County community,” said Terre Logsdon, Chief Climate Resiliency Officer for the County of Lake.
The two-year project will also include an information-gathering phase, including data analysis, review of other emergency response plans, and collecting input from local residents about their knowledge, beliefs, and experiences related to extreme heat and HABs in Lake County. Results will be used by the working group to develop the action plan.
The CHARM project is a collaboration between the Public Health Institute’s Tracking California program and, the Big Valley Band of Pomo Indians. It is funded by the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Climate and Health Initiative.