Harmful Algal Bloom Early Warning System


Building a harmful algal bloom early warning system in western Lake ErieA harmful algal bloom in Lake Erieenvironmental sample processor going underwater

Thanks to a grant through the federal Ocean Technology Transition project, GLOS is partnering with NOAA GLERL and NCCOS, LimnoTech, The Ohio State University, and Cleveland Water Alliance to build a harmful algal bloom early warning system (EWS) in western Lake Erie. As a response to what is increasingly becoming a regional public health concern, the project aims to combine existing data streams from in-water sensors and incorporate new technology into a system that will allow water managers and the public to anticipate harmful algal blooms (HABs) and react effectively.

In 2018, GLOS brought together a group of partners in order to begin combining years of technological and scientific innovation into a system that could create localized alerts. At the core of the system are environmental sample processors (ESPs) and a network of sensors distributed through the at-risk areas.

Water treatment managers, the target users, indicated that it is important to get the information when it becomes important and in an easily-accessible format such as a push alert or text message.

2019 and 2020, years two and three of the project will see the continued development of the data network and development of the backend technology necessary to take in the data and present actionable information.

Photos: (Left) NOAA GLERL staffer submerges the ESPniagara during a test deployment in June of 2016. Courtesy of NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. | (Right) Satellite imagery captured on Aug. 1, 2014 shows the harmful algal bloom that caused a two-day shutdown of Toledo’s municipal water supply. NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC

GLOS HAB tools

HABs Data Portal

Lake Erie Water Quality Stations

Maumee River Nutrient Tracker



GLOS is working with key collaborator Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research (CIGLR) on a prototype system to demonstrate end-to-end data flow, from sensor or model data to actionable alert, for both HAB and hypoxic events.

More On the Technology

Capable of doing autonomous molecular analysis and sending near real-time results, ESPs were designed by NOAA GLERL in collaboration with NOAA NCCOS, the CIGLR, and Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI).

NOAA and CIGLR produce several HAB-related tools and services including a twice-weekly HAB email bulletin, an experimental HAB tracker, and more.


In Lake Erie, harmful algal blooms (HABs) typically begin as nutrient-rich water from the surrounding watershed drains into the western, warm, shallow part of the lake.

This creates a perfect situation for the growth of a type of blue-green algae that creates a toxin called microcystin. In 2014, one such bloom caused the microcystin levels in Toledo tap water to exceed what is recommended by the World Health Organization, triggering a two-day “Do Not Drink” advisory.

More on Funding

Funding for this project has been provided by the U.S. IOOS Ocean Technology Transition Project. This national project sponsors the transition of emerging marine observing technologies, for which there is an existing operational requirement and a demonstrated commitment to integration and use by the ocean and Great Lakes observing community, to operational mode.

Project Contact:

Becky Pearson, bpearson@glos.us

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HABs Data Portal