Zebra mussels and other species can cause environment and economic damage

PRATT -- The water resources of Kansas are being invaded by non-native plants, animals, and fish that could damage the environment and disrupt the economy. Called "aquatic nuisance species," they include any fish, animal, or plant that has been introduced into the wild and has a harmful impact on natural resources and the human use of these resources. Newly introduced species can harm the environment by out-competing native species for food, crowding native species out of their habitat, and making habitat unsuitable for native species.

Aquatic nuisance species not only represent a threat to the environment, they threaten industry and the economy by decreasing property values, recreational opportunities, and water quality. They often foul water intakes, increasing cost for power generation, and impede water flow and efficiency of water delivery systems. It has been estimated that damage due to nuisance species costs almost $120 billion a year in the United States.

The New Zealand mudsnail is a nuisance species on the state's watch list although it has not yet been found. The white perch is an aquatic nuisance species that has shown up in Kansas waters, but perhaps the most notorious species is the zebra mussel. Zebra mussels have been found in El Dorado Reservoir and the Walnut River below the lake. Zebra mussels cause problems by competing for food with young fish and native mussels. Although zebra mussels tend to make water clearer, the clear water can lead to conditions that create toxic algae blooms. Such algae blooms can kill fish and cause taste and odor problems in human drinking water.

Once zebra mussels become established, they are nearly impossible to eradicate. To prevent spreading these dime-sized, striped mussels to other waters, lake users must take a few simple precautions such as washing all equipment that comes into contact with zebra mussel-infested water with hot water or a 10-percent bleach solution.

To prevent the spread of nuisance species, take the following precautions:

  • learn to identify aquatic nuisance species;
  • do not release aquarium pets. Do not release anything from the aquarium (water, plants, fish, or animals) into or near a body of water or storm drain. If your family gets tired of its aquarium or aquatic pets, give them to another aquarium enthusiast or bury them. Dump the water into the toilet or yard, far away from storm drains;
  • never move fish from one body of water to another;
  • empty bait buckets on dry land, not into lakes;
  • inspect boats, trailers, skis, anchors, and all other equipment and remove any visible organisms and vegetation; and
  • wash equipment with 140-degree water, a 10-percent chlorine and water solution, or dry for at least five days to remove or kill species that are not visible.

Contact the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks at 620-342-0658 if any nuisance species are found