Attached-algae floways have tremendous potential for use in wastewater treatment because natural algal communities show high nutrient removal efficiencies, have low operating costs, and are easy to maintain. Algal wastewater floways may also serve as a sustainable option for producing renewable energy because algae grow rapidly, are easily harvested, and can serve as a source of biomass for biofuel. However, pests such as chironomids (Diptera) colonize open channel periphyton floways and their larvae damage the biofilms. While pesticides can control midge larvae, little information is known about alternative, non-toxic controls. This study examined the effectiveness of periodic, short-term dewatering (4 hours every 9 days) on midge abundance and periphyton growth in 16 recirculating, outdoor floways (3 m long, 0.1 m wide). We compared midge abundance and algal accumulation (chlorophyll a, b, c, and pheophytin) among control (n = 8) and dewatered (n = 8) floways filled with secondarily treated wastewater (27 days, 10 hours of daylight). Dewatered flumes had 42% fewer midges and 28–49% lower algal productivity (as measured by chlorophyll a, b, c, and pheophytin pigments). Chlorophyll a production rates averaged (±1 SD) 0.5 ± 0.2 μg/cm2/day in control floways compared to 0.3 ± 0.1 μg/cm2/day dewatered floways. Short-term dewatering effectively reduced midges but also damaged periphyton. To maximize the recovery of periphyton biomass, operators should harvest periphyton from floways during dewatering events before periphyton is damaged by desiccation or direct exposure to sunlight.

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