Home > GWRC - Guidance Manual on Toxic Cyanobacteria

GWRC - Guidance Manual on Toxic Cyanobacteria

Project Number # 5016

Global Water Research Coalition International Guidance Manual for the Management of Toxic Cyanobacteria

Status:  Completed

Project Leader:  Gayle Newcombe

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Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, are a primitive group of organisms which, according to fossil records, have existed for approximately 3.5 billion years. Cyanobacteria have evolved to allow the efficient utilisation of many environments, including marine and freshwater sources. Cyanobacteria are a concern for water authorities worldwide as their persistence in water supplies causes numerous problems for water treatment plants. However, the major concern associated with the presence of cyanobacteria is the metabolites they produce, taste and odour compounds, particularly 2-methyl isoborneol and geosmin, and a range of toxic compounds known collectively as algal toxins, or cyanotoxins.

This research project was developed through the Cooperative Research Centre for Water Quality and Treatment to consolidate that wealth of knowledge into a practical, user-friendly manual that could be used by Australian water quality managers and operators to help manage cyanobacteria in source waters.

Background

The first recorded stock death due to the presence of cyanobacteria was reported in South Australia in 1878, and since that time cyanotoxins in drinking water have been implicated in a range of adverse health effects on the communities receiving contaminated water. As a result, the management of cyanobacteria, in source water and by treatment, has been an ongoing focus of water industry research and over several decades hundreds of journal articles, reports and fact sheets have been published on these topics. Several years ago, a research project was developed through the Cooperative Research Centre for Water Quality and Treatment to consolidate that wealth of knowledge into a practical, user-friendly manual that could be used by Australian water quality managers and operators to help manage cyanobacteria in source waters.

During the following years, manuals with similar aims were developed in South Africa and Europe. The management of cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins is one of the priority issues in the research agenda of the Global Water Research Coalition. In 2007 a GWRC expert workshop was held in South Africa, attended by those responsible for the development of the three regional manuals, with the aim to consolidate the available knowledge and know-how and to develop an international guidance manual incorporating the most important aspects of the different manuals to enable its application worldwide.

Scope

The international manual covers information required to:

  • understand the importance of cyanobacteria and the toxins they produce
  • assess the risks associated with a particular water source
  • develop a monitoring program and incident management strategies consistent with the WHO Water Safety Planning process
  • instigate management procedures both in the source water and treatment plants to mitigate the risks posed by the presence of toxic compounds in drinking water.

The manual is a user friendly document that can be accessed on several levels, from basic information for the water quality manager who knows very little about cyanobacteria, to those requiring more detailed guidance on, for example, source water management methods, or doses of activated carbon required to reduce toxin concentration to below the WHO guideline. It is hoped this manual will be accessed by water utilities world-wide, and feedback on its application will be used to update and implement revisions to maintain and enhance its usefulness to the international water industry.

Link to Guidance Manual