San Diego County Environmental Services is using fairly extreme measures to find and clean mosquito-infested pools.
They're sending search teams up in helicopters, surveying the entire county to see into people's backyards. If they spot a dirty, green pool, they contact the homeowner to get it cleaned up.
"You can spot the unmaintained pools from the air pretty readily because they're an off-green color and don't look right," says Chris Conlan, the Supervising Ecologist at the County Vector Control office.
Those pools can become breeding grounds for mosquitos, which is troublesome this year. The county is finding new species of mosquitos that can bring new diseases to the area.
Conlan says they've seen mosquitos known for transmitting West Nile, Zika and Dengue Virus.
The helicopter is a tactic they've used for years. The presence of dirty, unmaintained pools peaked around 2008 when the housing crash led to an increase in abandoned homes. Now, Conlan says they typically find 1500-2000 pools per year.
"The home's maybe been foreclosed upon. Or there's been an unfortunate illness in the family, and they can't devote attention the pool. It's a rental and the renters aren't taking care of it; the list goes on and on," says Conlan.
Most of the time, Conlan says his office can contact the owners and work with them to get the pool cleaned up. Vector Control covers the cost through the benefit assessment that everyone in the county pays into.
But there are cases where they have to file warrants to get into the property. Conlan says those are rare.
Clean-up can include chemical treatments to help get the pool back in working order. Or, if owners don't want to do a full clean up, Vector Control can put mosquito fish into the pool. Those fish eat mosquito larvae before they have a chance to hatch.
Even with the helicopter searches, Conlan says the county needs help finding all the places mosquitos can breed.
"There's a lot we can do to try to kill the mosquitos, but we need everyone's help because we can't get in every backyard and dump all the standing water that's out there," he says.
To contact Vector COntrol and report mosquito breeding or any standing water that needs to be cleaned up, call (858) 694-2888 or send an email to email@example.com. You can also fill out a form at this website.