Geosmin is a strong musty-flavored organic compound that is responsible for many taste-and-odor events in surface drinking water sources like lakes and reservoirs. The taste threshold of geosmin for humans is lower than 10 ng/L. Traditional treatment methods will not remove geosmin to this level. Additional water treatment methods must be implemented to successfully remove the geosmin and its associated flavor and odor from drinking water. Furthermore, geosmin is produced by cyanobacteria somewhat sporadically, so it is difficult to predict when taste-and-odor events are going to occur. The difficulty involved with predicting geosmin events has led most water treatment facilities to adopt reactive approaches towards geosmin treatment; these facilities typically treat for geosmin in response to complaints of an earthy off-flavor in the drinking water. This reactive approach causes issues with consumer confidence, as the flavor of the water is one of the only metrics a consumer has for judging the safety of his or her water. To enable proactive treatment of geosmin from water, more sensitive methods for geosmin detection or taste-and-odor event prediction must be developed.This study investigates the use of quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction (qPCR) for the early detection of geosmin-producing cyanobacteria. qPCR can detect geosmin-producing cyanobacteria via their DNA. I developed a qPCR assay for this study that is capable of sensitively detecting multiple strains of the geosmin-producing Nostoc genus. The developed assay showed high sensitivity, demonstrating the possibility for its use in detecting low concentrations of geosmin-producing cyanobacteria before detectible levels of geosmin have been produced and released into the water. Through further sequencing of more geosmin-producing genera and species, the methodology outlined in this research could be applied to develop the tools necessary to predict taste-and-odor events caused by geosmin-producing cyanobacteria.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Civil and Environmental Engineering

Date Submitted


Document Type





geosmin, cyanobacteria, qPCR