Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Computer Model To Predict Toxic Algal Outbreaks

June 6, 2000
Adelaide University
Blooms of blue-green algae, often toxic to people and animals, could be predicted up to four weeks before they occur, thanks to a new computer model being developed.

Blooms of blue-green algae in Australia's largest river, the Murray could be predicted up to four weeks before they occur thanks to a new computer model being developed at Adelaide University with the help of industry.

Related Articles

The model-an Australian first-has already shown early signs of success.

Adelaide University student Mr Gavin Bowden is working on the project as part of his PhD with the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering. His research is funded by an Australian Research Council SPIRT grant, in partnership with United Utilities Australia (formerly known as North West Water).

United Utilities has a 25-year contract with SA Water to operate 10 water treatment facilities along the lower Murray, providing water to more than 150,000 South Australians.

Outbreaks of toxic blue-green algae pose a major threat to the quality of water.

"Until now, traditional attempts to predict outbreaks of blue-green algae have been unsuccessful," Mr Bowden said.

He has achieved some success using a special computer modelling process which mimics the human brain. The "artificial neural networks" utilised by the computer model enable it to "learn" the key factors which contribute to an algal outbreak, enabling the prediction of major blooms before they arise.

Mr Bowden has been supplying his computer model with data provided by SA Water and the Murray-Darling Basin Commission. The data was compiled from water samples collected every week over the last 20 years at Morgan in the Riverland.

"A range of environmental factors in the water are taken into account by the model," Mr Bowden said.

"These include nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, the flow and temperature of the water, turbidity and colour.

"There are other factors which influence the development of blue-green algae, but the beauty of using neural networks is that you can get reasonable predictions by including just the major factors."

Early results are extremely promising. When the computer's forecasts are measured against actual events, the predictions come close to the mark. Although not 100% accurate, they clearly show the peaks and troughs in algal bloom development.

"This is far better than other previous modelling techniques, and is very promising. The model picks up the overall pattern of algal activity-not only that, it's picking it up a full four weeks in advance," Mr Bowden said.

Right now, Mr Bowden is developing the model on his computer based at the University. He believes a fine-tuned, fully workable model that can be used by United Utilities is only about six months away.

"The ultimate goal is to have this model sitting either at the head office in the city or at the treatment plants themselves, where they can be used to forecast algal blooms.

"The importance of predicting the blooms is that, due to the associated algal toxins, they present a major water quality problem; and their treatment can be costly. If the model forecasts a bloom four weeks in advance, industry can get the appropriate treatment processes ready and tackle the problem straight away, saving time, money, and maintaining the quality of the water."

Another important aspect to the computer model is the ability to better understand the factors involved in toxic algal outbreaks. Mr Bowden said the computer model could be "interrogated" to reveal the principal factors causing algal blooms.

He's now looking to adapt the computer model for other uses, such as the all-important problem in the Murray: salinity.

"The cost of salinity to domestic and industrial water users in Adelaide, as estimated back in 1984, was US$22 million per year, so the problem is probably much worse now," Mr Bowden said.

"I'm looking at improving the forecasts used for salinity, which could be used in conjunction with other models.

"If you knew a few weeks in advance that a large volume of highly saline water was moving down the Murray, water could be pumped to the Adelaide reservoirs before or after that to avoid pumping the saline water."

But the applications of the computer model don't stop there. Mr Bowden believes the model could be used throughout the world to predict problems of water quality.

"All you need is the right data for a particular water supply and you can apply the same modelling processes.

"Wherever water quality is of concern, it can be used," he said.

Mr Bowden will deliver a paper on his findings at the Hydro 2000 conference in Perth in November this year, and also at the 2nd International Conference for Applications of Machine Learning to Ecological Modelling in Adelaide in November/December.

His research is supervised by Professor Graeme Dandy and by Dr Holger Maier, whose own PhD work formed the basis of this study. Mr Bowden also acknowledged the great support received from Mr Neil Palmer at United Utilities and Mr Mike Burch at the Australian Water Quality Centre.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Adelaide University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Cite This Page:

Adelaide University. "Computer Model To Predict Toxic Algal Outbreaks." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 June 2000. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/06/000602031642.htm>.
Adelaide University. (2000, June 6). Computer Model To Predict Toxic Algal Outbreaks. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 31, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/06/000602031642.htm
Adelaide University. "Computer Model To Predict Toxic Algal Outbreaks." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/06/000602031642.htm (accessed January 31, 2015).

Share This

More From ScienceDaily

More Computers & Math News

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

China's "Great Firewall" Frustrates Internet Users

China's "Great Firewall" Frustrates Internet Users

Reuters - News Video Online (Jan. 31, 2015) The Chinese government moves to tighten regulations for virtual private network (VPN) services that are used to access websites and services normally blocked in China. That&apos;s affected many internet users in the country. Yiming Woo reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Google Forced To Obey Law, Changes U.K. Privacy Policy

Google Forced To Obey Law, Changes U.K. Privacy Policy

Newsy (Jan. 30, 2015) Google has agreed to make its privacy policy more transparent in compliance with a U.K. law. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Newsweek's Tech Sexism Story: More Than Just A Cover

Newsweek's Tech Sexism Story: More Than Just A Cover

Newsy (Jan. 29, 2015) Some objected to the art for Newsweek&apos;s cover story "What Silicon Valley Thinks of Women," but it&apos;s achieved one mission: getting people talking. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Now Bill Gates Is 'Concerned' About Artificial Intelligence

Now Bill Gates Is 'Concerned' About Artificial Intelligence

Newsy (Jan. 29, 2015) Bill Gates joins the list of tech moguls scared of super-intelligent machines. He says more people should be concerned, but why? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.


Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News


Free Subscriptions

Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile

Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?

Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins