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Early Warning System for Cyanobacteria

Project Number # 1123

Developing Guidance for Assessment and Evaluation of Harmful Algal Blooms, and Implementation of Control Strategies in Source Water

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Utility managers facing either routine or intermittent cyanobacteria blooms must be equipped to remove nuisance metabolites (i.e. cyanotoxins, MIB, geosmin) within the drinking water treatment process. In some cases, a source water control strategy may be implemented to inhibit the growth of planktonic or benthic cyanobacteria before generating these metabolites. Early detection of cyanobacteria events is critical to apply a proactive source water control treatment strategy. However, early warning systems are abundant in the literature but have not transferred well into practice, with efficiency rates stated of only 53%. With such poor early detection of these events, utilities are often faced with a reactive approach for source water treatment and control. Many different source water control strategies exist (e.g. algaecides, sonication, mixing, nutrient removal) and information is predominantly from manufacturers without sufficient peer review of the recommendations. This creates significant risk to the utility desiring to invest in a treatment system for a reservoir with an algaecide (or cyanocide). The risk of applying large quantities of chemical into a surface supply also requires regulatory approval. In addition, improved methods are needed to measure how these chemical treatments are working in the field. Currently, guidance for assessment and management of harmful algal blooms in source waters is based upon utility experience, manufacturer specifications, and either peer-reviewed or gray-literature.

This project (also known as Water Research Foundation #4912) will review available published information, survey utilities regarding practice, evaluate existing and innovative technologies for monitoring and treatment, and synthesize this information into a guidance document and create decision trees for utility managers. The project approach consists of four (4) tasks:

  • Task 1 will conduct a comprehensive literature search and critical review of early warning systems and source water control strategies.
  • Task 2 will involve a utility survey to obtain information how these strategies are used in practice and obtain information regarding source water quality, standard operating procedures, regulatory requirements, and permitting.
  • Task 3 will evaluate select source control strategies in either a laboratory or field setting and evaluate the use adenosine trisphosphate (ATP) as a rapid indicator of bloom development and efficacy of source control strategies (e.g. algaecides). Task 3 will also evaluate assessment and control technique for benthic cyanobacteria mats.
  • Task 4 will develop a guidance document including decision trees synthesizing all of the information collected in Tasks 1-3.

The project will be led by an international team experienced with performing research studies on cyanobacteria and generating utility guidance, including:

  • Dr. Eric Wert (Southern Nevada Water Authority)
  • Dr. Arash Zamyadi (Polytechnique Montreal / WaterRA)
  • Dr. Virginie Gaget (University of Adelaide)
  • Dr. Christine Owen (Hazen and Sawyer)

Utility support letters have been provided from utilities across the United States, Canada, and Australia. These utilities were selected based on their experience with early warning systems and source water control strategies and/or have expressed interest in the innovative research areas proposed in this project (i.e. ATP monitoring, and control of benthic cyanobacteria).

This project is part of our Algal Innovation Community of Interest

Please see the open access scientific papers from this project within the following publications:

  • F.A. Kibuye, H. Almuhtaram, A. Zamyadi, V. Gaget, C. Owen, R. Hofmann, E.C. Wert (2021) Utility Practices and Perspectives on Monitoring and Source Control of Cyanobacterial Blooms. AWWA Water Science (JAWWA). https://doi.org/10.1002/aws2.1264
  • H. Almuhtaram, S. Ajjampur, C.M. Glover, F.A. Kibuye, R. Hofmann, V. Gaget, C. Owen, E.C. Wert, A. Zamyadi (2021) State of knowledge on early warning tools for cyanobacteria detection. Ecological Indicators, 133, 108442 (IF: 5.668). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2021.108442
  • F.A. Kibuye, A. Zamyadi, E.C. Wert (2021) A critical review on operation and performance of source water control strategies for cyanobacterial blooms: Part I-Chemical control methods. Harmful Algae, 109, 102099. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.hal.2021.102099   
  • F.A. Kibuye, A. Zamyadi, E.C. Wert (2021) A critical review on operation and performance of source water control strategies for cyanobacterial blooms: Part II-Mechanical and biological control methods. Harmful Algae, 109, 102119. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.hal.2021.102119