Harmful Algal Bloom Monitoring

    Harmful algal blooms frequently occur in reservoirs, lakes and ponds, especially those that are highly nutrient enriched. These blooms are made up of billions of cyanobacteria: primitive nitrogen-fixing photosynthetic bacteria that thrive in warm, phosphorus rich waters.

    While harmless in small concentrations, blooms – large growths - can produce toxins that can be deadly for humans, pets and livestock. 

    Mantua algae bloomHarmful algal blooms tend to occur in warm waters that are nutrient enriched. Often as reservoirs are drawn-down in the summer, blooms occur. Nutrients can enter a lake through runoff (agricultural, urban or suburban) or from wastewater treatment plants. Utah – unlike many states - does not currently set standards for nutrients in discharge from sewage treatment plants, exacerbating the problem.

    Participate in statewide monitoring with UWW and NOAA to help identify the occurrence of these blooms.  See resources below.

    More information and updates about Utah blooms: Divison of Water Quality 


     Additional Guides:

    Scope and Field Photos

     Report Cyanobacteria

    If you find a potential bloom:

    • For immediate concerns, contact the DEQ Spill Line (801) 536-4123.  Otherwise, use the bloomWatch and/or UWW Google Form to report findings. Both of these will notify either the DWQ or UWW for follow-up.
    • Use the NOAA database if you are regularly monitoring.  Note: Report findings here even if you do not find any cyanobacteria. 




    Use this app to report a visual bloom in the field.  App available on Android or iOS.  By tagging Utah, a notification is sent to the Division of Water Quality. You may add photos and location of the bloom. 


    UWW Google Form

    Use this form to submit photos and information of field and/or microscope data to the Utah Water Watch.  We forward this information to the Division of Water Quality and local health departments. You may be asked to collect an additional sample for toxin tests.

    (Note - you will need to be signed into a Google account to submit using this form).


    NOAA Database 

    Use this link to report microscope data to the NOAA phytoplankton Monitoring Network.  Any positive hits of cyanobacteria, send photos to pmn@noaa.gov for verification. 

    Utah volunteers use a similar login - if you are interested in participating, contact UWW at waterquality@usu.edu or 435-797-2580.

    NOAA Database Instructions


    Additional Resources 

    Utah Department of Water Quality Website
    -Updates about advisories and monitoring.

    Utah Health Dept. Response Plan

    Live water quality data via buoys- Buoys deployed at several reservoirs and lakes around the state

    NOAA HAB site- Everything from education to ecoforecasting

    Safety Precautions

    Algal blooms may contain toxin-producing cyanobacteria. The following tips will help keep you safe. Be sure to bring gloves, safety/sun glasses, clean water and soap if none is available on site. Samplers should:

    • Wear elbow/shoulder length gloves, 
    • Wear eye protection (such as sunglasses or goggles), and waders/boots during sampling. 
    • Do not ingest water or allow the water to come into contact with exposed skin. 
    • Avoid inhaling spray caused by boats, wind or other water surface disturbances.  If these conditions are present, wear a mask to avoid inhalation of water spray.
    • Hands should be washed thoroughly after sampling before eating or drinking with clean water (not lake water).
    • Waders/boots should be rinsed of algal material using clean water (not lake water) before storage.