Ponds play an important role in urban areas. However, cyanobacterial blooms counteract the societal need for a good water quality and pose serious health risks for citizens and pets. To provide insight into the extent and possible causes of cyanobacterial problems in urban ponds, we conducted a survey on cyanobacterial blooms and studied three ponds in detail. Among 3,500 urban ponds in the urbanized Dutch province of North Brabant, 125 showed cyanobacterial blooms in the period 2009-2012. This covered 79% of all locations registered for cyanobacterial blooms, despite the fact that urban ponds comprise only 11% of the area of surface water in North Brabant. Dominant bloom-forming genera in urban ponds were Microcystis, Anabaena and Planktothrix. In the three ponds selected for further study, the microcystin concentration of the water peaked at 77 mu g l(-1) and in scums at 64,000 mu g l(-1), which is considered highly toxic. Microcystin-RR and microcystin-LR were the most prevalent variants in these waters and in scums. Cyanobacterial chlorophyll-a peaked in August with concentrations up to 962 mu g l(-1) outside of scums. The ponds were highly eutrophic with mean total phosphorus concentrations between 0.16 and 0.44 mg l(-1), and the sediments were rich in potential releasable phosphorus. High fish stocks dominated by carp lead to bioturbation, which also favours blooms. As urban ponds in North Brabant, and likely in other regions, regularly suffer from cyanobacterial blooms and citizens may easily have contact with the water and may ingest cyanobacterial material during recreational activities, particularly swimming, control of health risk is of importance. Monitoring of cyanobacteria and cyanobacterial toxins in urban ponds is a first step to control health risks. Mitigation strategies should focus on external sources of eutrophication and consider the effect of sediment P release and bioturbation by fish.