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

Jun 6, 2019

Cyanobacterial harmful algal blooms (cHABs) can result in the release of cyanotoxins. 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 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued health advisories for states and utilities for two types of cyanotoxins: microcystins and cylindrospermopsin.

In 2016, WRF funded this Research Area to help utilities prepare for cHABs, set practical monitoring methodologies, find cost-effective control strategies, develop 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 Research Area Funds and Total Project Value

Refinement and Standardization of Cyanotoxin Analytical Techniques for Drinking Water

  • Timeline: 2017–2022
  • Total Project Value: $696,597
  • Research Area Objectives: Source Water, Control Strategies, Communications

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

  • Timeline: 2018–2023
  • Total Project Value: $490,354
  • Research Area Objectives: Source Water, Control Strategies, Guidance, Communications

Utility Responses to Cyanobacterial/Cyanotoxin Events; Case Studies and Lessons Learned

  • Timeline: 2018–2023
  • Total Project Value: $240,986
  • Research Area Objectives: Guidance, Communications

Cumulative Project Value for Research Area: $1,427,937


Projects Funded Outside of the Research Area Program That Meet a Research Area Objective

Evaluation and Optimization of Microcystin Analytical Methods

  • Year Completed: 2019
  • Funding Program: EO
  • RA Objectives: Control Strategies

Cyanobacterial Blooms and Cyanotoxins: Research Priorities for Drinking Water Protection

  • Year Completed: 2018
  • Funding Program: EO
  • RA Objectives: Source Water, Control Strategies, Guidance, Communications

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

  • Year Completed: 2020
  • Funding Program: Partnership (AWWA)
  • RA Objectives: Control Strategies

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

  • Year Completed: 2019
  • Funding Program: TC
  • RA Objectives: Control Strategies

Four Steps to Effective Cyanotoxin Communications: A Risk Communications Toolkit

  • Year Completed: 2018
  • Funding Program: EO/Partnership (AWWA)
  • RA Objectives: Communications

Benthic Cyanobacteria: An Aesthetic and Toxic Risk to Be Evaluated

  • Year Completed: 2020
  • Funding Program: EO/Partnership (Water Research Australia)
  • RA Objectives: Source Water

Autonomous in situ Monitoring of Harmful Algal Blooms

  • Year Completed: Ongoing
  • Funding Program: TC
  • RA Objectives: Source Water


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