Bryozoa: Reduced Irrigation/Sprinkler Flow?

Reduction in water flow through an irrigation system can be due to many factors including improper nozzle pressure, clogging of the nozzle, and filter clogging to name a few. One potential cause is due to a jelly-like creature. Bryozoans are small animals that have a similar life style as coral, except bryozoans are found in freshwater and they make a jelly-like or gelatinous matrix to live in. Bryozoans attach to any solid substrate (i.e. filters, base of irrigation heads, etc.). There are several species that have caused clogging problems in freshwater lakes and rivers used for golf course irrigation in the United States. Interestingly, many European cities in the 1800’s regularly reported disruption of their public water service due to bryozoans(1).

Photograph 1. Bryozoa on a sprinkler filter (photo courtesy of Paul Latshaw)

Recently, new reports have surfaced that bryozoans are causing disruptions with wastewater treatment facilities in the United States(1). We do not know how widespread the problem is, if at all, but the potential exists for filter clogging with effluent or wastewater.

Photograph 2. Close-up of the bryozoa (photo courtesy of Paul Latshaw)

The photos show a sprinkler head filter clogged with a Bryozoan. A single individual can start a colony by re-producing asexually (budding), resulting in a large colony. Bryozoans are often confused with seaweed, algae, and most frequently with moss (The Greek word “Bryon” means “moss”). The control of bryozoans is not known, because so little is known of this microscopic creature. It is reported that small amounts of copper are toxic to them.

References 1. Kraepelin, K., 1886. Die Fauna der Hamburger Wasserleitung. Abh. Naturwiss. Vereins. Hamburg 9(1): 1–15.

2. Wood, T.S. and T.G. March. Biofouling of wastewater treatment plants by the freshwater bryozoans, Plumatella vaihiriae. Water Research 33(3): 609-614.


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