Cyanobacterial Blooms and Cyanotoxins: Monitoring, Control, and Communication Strategies

Jun 6, 2019

Cyanobacterial blooms (also referred to as harmful algal blooms) can result in the release of cyanotoxins (or algal toxins). Several studies have investigated the toxicity of cyanotoxins and documented their human health effects, including gastroenteritis, liver damage, liver cancer, and neurotoxic effects.

In 2015, the EPA issued Health Advisories for states and utilities for two types of cyanotoxins: microcystins and cylindrospermopsin.

In 2016, WRF funded this Research Area to develop tools to help utilities prepare for cyanobacterial blooms, set practical monitoring methodologies, find cost-effective control strategies, build effective communication resources, and optimize watershed and source water management strategies.


Research Area Objectives

  1. Provide optimized watershed and source water management strategies.
  2. Investigate cost–effective control options.
  3. Offer practical guidance for control and treatment.
  4. Deliver public outreach and communication strategies and tools.


Cumulative Researc Area Funds and Total Project Value

Refinement and Standardization of Cyanotoxin Analytical Techniques for Drinking Water

  • Timeline: 2017–2019
  • Total Project Value: TBD
  • Research Area Objectives: Sourcewater, Control Strategies, Communications

Developing Guidance for Evaluation and Implementation for Control of HABs in Source Water

  • Timeline: 2018–2019
  • Total Project Value: TBD
  • Research Area Objectives: Sourcewater, Control Strategies, Guidance, Communications

Utility Response to Cyanobacteria/Cyanotoxin Event; Case Studies and Lessons Learned

  • Timeline: 2018–2020
  • Total Project Value: TBD
  • Research Area Objectives: Guidance, Communications

Future Project: Treatment Plant Reservoirs and Holding Ponds – Sources or Sinks for Cyanobacteria and Toxins

  • Timeline: 2018–2019
  • Total Project Value: TBD
  • Research Area Objectives: Control Strategies

Future Project: Pretreatment Approaches for Removal of Cyanotoxins-containing Bacterial Cells

  • Timeline: 2019–2020
  • Total Project Value: TBD
  • Research Area Objectives: Control Strategies

Future Project: Control Strategies for Cyanobacteria Blooms in Source Water Supplies

  • Timeline: 2019–2021
  • Total Project Value: TBD
  • Research Area Objectives: Sourcewater, Communications

Cumulative Project Value for Research Area: TBD


Projects Funded Outside of the Research Area Program that meet a Research Area Objective

Performance Evaluation of ELISA Methods for the Analysis of Cyanotoxins

  • Year Completed: Ongoing
  • Funding Program: EO
  • RA Objectives: Control Strategies

Cyanobacterial Blooms and Cyanotoxins: Knowledge Synthesis, Expert Workshop, and Research Gaps

  • Year Completed: Ongoing
  • Funding Program: EO
  • RA Objectives: Sourcewater, Control Strategies, Guidance, Communications

CyanoTOX Field Validation and Enhancement Related to Chemical Kinetics and ELISA Kinetics

  • Year Completed: Ongoing
  • Funding Program: Partnership (AWWA)
  • RA Objectives: Control Strategies

Release of Intracellular Cyanotoxins during Oxidation of Naturally Occurring and Lab Cultured Cyanobacteria

  • Year Completed: Ongoing
  • Funding Program: TC
  • RA Objectives: Control Strategies

Development of a Risk Communication Toolkit for Cyanotoxins

  • Year Completed: Ongoing
  • Funding Program: EO/Partnership (AWWA)
  • RA Objectives: Communications



EO = Emerging Opportunities

TC = Tailored Collaboration

Project Status

Year Initiated: 2016

Year Completed: Ongoing


Advisory Committee Members

Paul Rochelle, MWDSC

Keith Cartnick, Suez

Eric Wert, SNWA

Dean Reynolds, Alliance Water

Melissa Elliot, Denver Water

Mike Burch, SA Water

Michael Baker, ASDWA

Lloyd Wilson, ASDWA

Steve Via, AWWA

Nicholas Dugan, EPA

Jennifer Graham, USGS