Changes to climate patterns and land use have increased the frequency and severity of harmful algal blooms in Australia.

Understanding the full impact of algal blooms on recreational water use, source water management, water treatment (for drinking, stock, agricultural and recycled water), and finished water quality, enables industry to better evaluate and target research into bloom mitigation and management.

Dr Tamburic’s report for Water Research Australia (WaterRA) is the first effort in two decades to estimate the economic impact of harmful and nuisance algal blooms (HNABs) on the Australian water industry.

Using data from past blooms that have impacted water supplies, the research team surveyed industry practitioners to understand their response to those blooms. They found that algae-related problems account for 21-40% of water quality concerns at Australian water utilities.  

Algae-related problems distract water operators from other business needs, and can result in 8-15 hours of overtime work per bloom. Not only that, water utilities incur significant expenses for chemical dosing, carting water, and capital upgrades in order to treat blooms.

The research was successful in identifying and categorising the present-day costs associated with the management of harmful and nuisance algal blooms in Australia. However, there is insufficient information to extrapolate a national estimate for the ‘cost of algae’ for the whole country.

Bojan's team have passed on their research findings to CSIRO who will be working on obtaining a national $ cost estimate as part of their exciting new AquaWatch Australia program.

Congratulations to the UNSW research team Drs Bojan Tamburic, Naras RaoTess Stafford and Professor Greg Leslie – and industry partners – Melbourne WaterWaterNSWHunter WaterGWMWaterGoulburn Valley WaterVictorian Department of Health and Water Research Australia.

Full Report at  Note that Report can only be accessed by employees of WaterRA member organisations

  • Lead Organisation:  Melbourne Water
  • Research Lead:  UNSW Sydney
  • Main Researcher:  Dr Bojan Tamburic