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The CWRS is working with Halifax Regional Municipality to monitor and detect blue-green algae in water.

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The CWRS is working with Halifax Regional Municipality to monitor and detect blue-green algae in water.

The Centre for Water Resources Studies (CWRS) is working with the Halifax Regional Municipality to conduct research for the detection and monitoring of blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, in water by using a novel passive sampling method. 

Cyanobacteria are naturally occurring in freshwater, lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams, but at high levels, can be harmful to people and animals. Climate change is warming lake water sooner and keeping it warmer longer, creating a need for new ways to monitor cyanobacteria. 

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During the Covid pandemic, researchers at the CWRS developed a passive sampling device to monitor SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) in wastewater. Recently the research team has modified this sampling approach to detect cyanobacteria in surface waters. The device is a round plastic case with holes that allow water to flow through and contact the material inside, which accumulates cyanobacteria and their associated toxins over a period of time. The passive sampling method differs from the more traditional grab sampling method because it helps to concentrate low levels of cyanobacteria and their toxins over time, providing an early-warning system for water monitoring. Additionally, grab samples only represent water quality for the instant the sample was collected, while passive samples allow for the investigation of extended sampling periods and larger volumes of water. This approach is helpful when cyanobacteria and their toxins are present at low levels and may not be detected via grab sampling. 

The CWRS team's goal is to monitor water quality in lakes to better understand cyanobacterial bloom formation in water. This month, our team successfully deployed passive sampling devices into seven lakes in HRM, hoping to monitor cyanobacterial growth before they form harmful algal blooms. This will help ensure the safety of beach visitors and their pets this summer season by providing an early detection system for cyanobacteria and their associated toxins. 

For more information on cyanobacteria and harmful blooms, click here.

For inquiries, please contact us at 

For updates on research conducted by our team, follow us @waterstudies. 

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