Changes to climate patterns and land use have increased the frequency and severity of harmful and nuisance algal blooms (HNABs) across the world.

The mitigation, management and treatment of HNABs is necessary to prevent poor water quality and adverse impacts on human health, but it places a major burden on the balance sheets of Australian water utilities.

In 2000, the Land and Water Resources Research and Development Corporation published a report produced by Atech Group on the “Cost of Algal Blooms”, placing the cost to extractive users in Australia at approximately $95 million AUD/year.

Nearly 20 years on, this figure is likely to be significantly higher as, in addition to inflation, the previous estimates do not account for increased proliferation of HNABs, stricter regulatory requirements and increased costs associated with water treatment and compliance.

Therefore, researchers from UNSW – Dr Bojan Tamburic (Project Leader; Civil and Environmental Engineering), Dr Tess Stafford (Business) Prof. Greg Leslie (Chemical Engineering), Dr Naras Rao (Chemical Engineering), Prof. Richard Stuetz (Civil and Environmental Engineering),  and Hons Student Mr James Preziosa (Chemical Engineering) – along with industry partners – Dr Nick Crosbie (Melbourne Water), Dr Lisa Hamilton (Water New South Wales), GWM Water, Goulburn Valley Water and the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services, in collaboration with Dr Arash Zamyadi (Water Research Australia) – are working on a new project titled “Assessing the economic impact of harmful and nuisance algal blooms to the Australian water industry”.

This project will address costs 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. Understanding cost associated with HNABs is essential for WaterRA to develop a comprehensive algal management and technology trial strategy to support water industry needs. 

UNSW researchers will deliver an updated estimate of the cost of HNABs to the Australian water industry in August 2021.