Harmful Algal Bloom Monitoring


    Visit lakes or reservoirs often?

    We need your help monitoring Utah for the presence of harmful algae! 

    Harmful algae (actually cyanobacteria) is naturally occurring in reservoirs, lakes, and ponds, but with increasing nutrients, lower water levels, and warmer temperatures, blooms are occurring more frequently around Utah and the world. 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 sometimes produce toxins that can be deadly for humans, pets, and livestock. 

    Mantua algae bloom


    Participate in statewide Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) monitoring with Utah Water Watch (UWW) and the Utah Division of Water Quality (UDWQ) to help identify the occurrence of these blooms.


    For more information and updates about Utah blooms, visit the Divison of Water Quality


    How to Monitor for HABs

    • See these simple instructions to learn how to identify HABs in the field. 
    • Make frequent observations of lakes and reservoirs across Utah.
    • When you visit a lake or reservoir, record the presence or absence of a possible HAB using the UWW CitSci Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) / Cyanobacteria Datasheet.
    • Continue to include algal information when you submit your Lake and Stream data to UWW's CitSci database

    Record Observations in CitSci

    Record observations and take photos in the field. Then submit the presence or absence of a bloom on  the Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) / Cyanobacteria Datasheet on UWW's CitSci database

    While at the lake or reservoir: HAB CitSci page

    1. Record observations on your datasheet. 
    2. Take photos.

    If you observe a bloom, take 2 photos- landscape and close-up. 

    If you don't observe a bloom, take a photo of water conditions at the site. 

    When you return home: 

    1. Go to CitSci.org, log into your account, and access the Utah Water Watch project. 
    2. Open the Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) / Cyanobacteria Datasheet. 
    3. Enter your observations. 
    4. Click "Submit" at the bottom of the page to submit your data. 

    UWW CitSci Database


    If you suspect a HAB

    • Record your observations on the Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) / Cyanobacteria Datasheet in CitSci 
    • If you can, return to the site daily to take photos and upload them to CitSci
    • You can also report a bloom using the 24-hour Environmental Incidents Hotline at 801-536-4123
    • Check the UDWQ HAB website for updates on the most current conditions 

    Harmful Algal Bloom



    NOAA's Phytoplankton Monitoring Network 
    NOAA Database

    You can also be trained through NOAA's Phytoplankton Monitoring Network to collect samples and identify algae under a microscope. 

    Once you complete training: 

    • Use the NOAA database to enter data.  Note: Report findings here even if you do not find any cyanobacteria. 
    • Collect samples, use UWW Bottle Labels to make sample collection notes of date/time, location, water temp, etc. 
    • Look at samples under a microscope and use ID guides 
    • Any positive hits of cyanobacteria, send photos to pmn@noaa.gov for verification. 

    If you are interested in participating, contact UWW at waterquality@usu.edu or 435-797-2580.


    NOAA Database 


    Monitoring Guides 


    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, and 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.

    Additional Resources 

    Scope and Field Photos: 

    Additional Monitoring Information: 

    Other Useful Resources: