Share icon

The Cyanobacteria Assessment Network is a multi-agency project among the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and U.S. Geological Survey to develop an early warning indicator system for algal bloom detection in U.S. freshwater systems. This research will utilize historical and current satellite data and supports federal, state, and local partners in their monitoring efforts to assess water quality to protect aquatic and human health.


Freshwater cyanobacterial harmful algal blooms occur worldwide and are associated with food web alterations, hypoxia, human respiratory irritation, and taste and odor of potable water as a result of ingestion or skin exposure during recreational activities. Rapid detection of potentially harmful blooms is essential to protect humans and animals from exposure. Information about potential for exposure, such as bloom duration, frequency, and extent, is especially critical for management decisions during periods of limited resources and funding. Successful assessment by satellites may provide a first-line of defense indicator for human and ecological health protection.


Objectives include (1) create a standard approach for early identification of algal blooms that is useful and accessible to stakeholders of freshwater systems- remote sensing assets that would be utilized in this approach include: ESA Envisat, Sentinel-3, and Sentinel-2 missions, and NASA’s Landsat satellite missions; (2) develop an information dissemination system for expedient public health advisory postings; and (3) understand connections between health, economic, and environmental conditions to cyanobacterial and phytoplankton blooms. This project started October 1, 2015 and will provide continental U.S. coverage from 2002-2012 using Envisat archives, and weekly composites of Sentinel-3 Ocean and Land Colour Imager data will be made available to collaborators for initial review and validation starting 2017.


CyAN directly supports objectives in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean and Safe Drinking Water Acts, and Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research Control Act; further, CyAN will pave the way for use of satellite water quality information world-wide.  Satellite data products will improve the decision-making ability of water managers responsible for monitoring and assessing both freshwater and estuarine systems. This project is the first of its kind to use satellite remote sensing to quantify trends in inland cyanobacterial surface area and frequency of occurrence across multiple water bodies for entire states within the continental United States. Information from CyAN will provide relevant source water occurrence of blooms and location information to assist in the future evaluation of cyanotoxin health effects.  States may use this information to assist with prioritizing limited resources to address cyanobacterial blooms in recreational or drinking waters. This project will also provide states with information on previously un- and under-sampled lakes and improve general awareness and preparedness of resolvable cyanobacterial events. This could be especially valuable to public water service utilities that may not be able to regularly monitor or access their source water lakes and reservoirs. 

Project highlights: 

  • Developing a new capability for statewide mapping and early warning for cyanobacterial harmful algal blooms
  • Project will provide data for multiple states
  • Release of pilot datasets scheduled for 2017
  • Will reduce costs for state and local agencies for monitoring and responding to harmful algal blooms
  • Will improve public safety and the security of U.S. water supplies
  • Standardized methods developed for satellite reporting of cyanobacteria extent and frequency
  • Mobile application hosted on production server and undergoing alpha testing