Harmful Algal Blooms

    Harmful Algal Bloom Squad


    Visit lakes or reservoirs often?

    We need your help monitoring Utah waters for the presence of harmful algal blooms! Join the Utah HAB Squad to help monitor Utah's waterbodies for HABs.

    Watch and share our free webinar about identifying HABs.

    Harmful algae (actually cyanobacteria) is naturally occurring in reservoirs, lakes, and ponds. 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. 


    Join the Utah HAB Squad to participate in statewide harmful algal bloom (HAB) monitoring.

    USU Water Quality Extension is helping to collect important real-time data on the status of HABs. Utah HAB Squad volunteers are asked to make frequent (weekly or every other week) observations of priority lake and stream sites and collect data on where and when HABs are showing up.

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

    Click here to register for the Utah HAB Squad. 


    Utah HAB Squad Monitoring Sites

    Explore the map below that shows active and available HAB priority monitoring sites.

    • Zoom in to a region you are interested in and click on the icons to find out more information about each site.
    • To view active sites and available sites separately, click on the symbol in the top left corner of the map. Then, check the layers you wish to see.
    • To view the map in a new web page tab, click on the symbol in the top right corner of the map.

    active-stream-hab-site= Active stream sites

    active-lake-HAB-site = Active lake sites

    available HAB stream site = Available stream sites

    available HAB lake site= Available lake sites        



    How to Monitor for HABs


    If You Suspect a HAB

    If you suspect a bloom, it is important to notify the appropriate agencies as soon as possible. They will determine if further testing is necessary and if a health watch or advisory needs to be issued. Please complete the following steps:

    1. Call the 24-hour Environmental Incidents Line at (801) 536-4123.

    2. Contact UWW by phone or email to alert them of a potential HAB. UWW will follow up with the Utah Division of Water Quality to ensure the HAB has been reported.

    3. Upload data into the Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) / Cyanobacteria Datasheet in CitSci as soon as possible.

    • If you can, return to the waterbody site daily to take photos and upload them to CitSci.

    • Check the UDWQ HAB website for updates on the most current conditions 

    Harmful Algal Bloom


     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: 

    1. Record observations on your datasheet. hab-photo-samples

    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: hab-citsci-datasheet

    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.

      1. If you are reporting that no bloom was observed, only fill out information for the site, wind, weather, and comments section. 

    4. Click "Submit" at the bottom of the page to submit your data. 



    UWW CitSci Database


    Safety Precautions for Monitoring HABs

    Blooms can be dangerous to human and animal health. Cyanobacteria can produce toxins that can attack the liver and nervous system and irritate the skin. To prevent accidental swallowing of cyanobacteria, volunteers should take care and avoid getting into the water. Be sure to avoid steep banks and slippery surfaces.

    Avoid exposure to toxins by following these simple safety guidelines:

    • Do not ingest water or allow 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 and airborne particles.
    • Wash hands thoroughly with soap before eating or drinking.

    NOTE: You do not need to touch the water to make the observations needed.


    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 utahwaterwatch@gmail.com or 435-797-2580.


    NOAA Database 


    Safety Precautions for Water Sampling

    Algal blooms may contain toxin-producing cyanobacteria. The following tips will help keep you safe. Be sure to bring gloves, safety/sun glasses, and 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 and airborne particles.
    • 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.


    Monitoring Guides 


    Additional Resources 

    Scope and Field Photos: 

    Additional Monitoring Information: 

    Other Useful Resources: