Detecting harmful algal blooms in real time

December 8, 2020

Application of in situ fluorometers for monitoring algal blooms in water supply systems: potential for real time treatment validation and reactive chemical adjustment (WaterRA Project #4523)

Cyanobacteria management remains a challenge to water utilities and water treatment plants due to the potential release of cyanotoxins and taste and odour compounds. The two main barriers for cyanobacteria and their metabolites are activated carbon (removes extracellular metabolites) and coagulation with aluminium or ferric salts (removes intracellular metabolites). 

Optimisation of both processes relies on the rapid determination of cyanobacteria numbers and metabolite concentrations, and previous detection methods were timely, taking up to several days for results.

This Water Research Australia PhD project developed rapid methods to detect cyanobacteria in water treatment plants in just minutes. In situ fluorescence sensors were applied to drinking water treatment plants to monitor cyanobacteria in real time and in laboratory studies to control coagulant and powdered activated carbon (PAC) dosages.

The research was initially investigated in the laboratory, then in a pilot scale treatment plant and finally in full scale water treatment plants in Australia and Canada.

WaterRA is pleased to bring you a short video from the project's award-winning researcher, Dr Florence Choo, designed to demonstrate the impact of her research. Created in conjunction with, our science communications partner, you will be able to see for yourself how Florence’s research has been of benefit to the water industry.