Identifying the cost of algal blooms in Australia

March 2, 2021

In 2000, Atech Group estimated the cost of algal blooms to extractive water users in Australia to be approximately $95 million AUD/year. Today, this figure is likely to be significantly higher due to the increased proliferation of algal blooms, stricter regulatory requirements and increased costs of drinking water treatment.

Water Research Australia has a project underway that will deliver un updated cost estimate to the Australian water industry that covers expenses associated with catchment monitoring and management (for drinking and recreational water), water treatment (including recycled water), and the delivery of rural domestic, stock and environmental water.

The literature review has revealed that algal blooms can cause plant shutdowns and inactivity ($1- 500/ m3 of water treated), as well as increase their operational costs ($0.02-5/ m3) and chemical costs ($0.05-3/ m3). Catchment monitoring for nutrient loading ($1.5-170/ Equivalent Population) and algal bloom detection ($1-30/ EP) places an additional burden on balance sheets. Federal and state legislation now directs water utilities to develop risk management plans for algal blooms, and to use increasingly sophisticated – and expensive – techniques to monitor and treat water impacted by algae. Given the scarcity and uncertainty of economic data relating to algal blooms, the research team at UNSW has proposed to combine an industry-wide survey with business impact analysis to estimate the cost of algae.

This comprehensive survey, developed in conjunction with industry partners, aims to identify and quantify the key costs associated with algal blooms in Australia today. Water treatment plant operators and water quality managers who are involved in day-to-day operational activities, particularly those individuals that have experience with managing algal blooms, are encouraged to take the survey to help inform the research. We are seeking the personal opinions of participants on how algal blooms have impacted water operations. 

This survey should take no longer than 20 minutes to complete and all responses will be kept confidential and anonymous.