Toxic blue-green algae in drinking water

Other Names:
Nuisance organisms in drinking water
Algal blooms
Poisonous cyanobacteria
Toxic blue-green algae

Common blue-green algae produce toxins which can cause gastroenteritis and skin and eye irritations. Animals have died from drinking algal scum, and there are concerns that algae-produced liver toxins could promote live cancer in humans.


Blooms of blue-green are increasingly reported in reservoirs and waterways in the UK and Australia. Toxins released by the algae can kill animals and cause nausea, diarrhoea, skin rashes and minor liver damage in humans. Toxins in contaminated reservoir water are not removed by water treatment plants with conventional sand filtration, and even modern activated carbon filters are not always effective. Algal blooms are most common in late summer and autumn, promoted by warm water conditions, sunlight and high levels of nutrients.

In 2000, the Swan River in Perth was indefinitely closed to the public as a result of a bloom of highly toxic blue-green algae. All water-related recreational activity was banned.

Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 6: Clean Water and SanitationGOAL 7: Affordable and Clean EnergyGOAL 15: Life on Land
Problem Type:
D: Detailed problems
Date of last update
21.03.2022 – 04:56 CET