Next generation sequencing (NGS) has rapidly become an invaluable tool for the detection, identification and relative quantification of environmental microorganisms. Here, we demonstrate two new 16S rDNA primer sets, which are compatible with NGS approaches and are primarily for use in water quality studies. Compared to 16S rRNA gene based universal primers, in silico and experimental analyses demonstrated that the new primers showed increased specificity for the Cyanobacteria and Proteobacteria phyla, allowing increased sensitivity for the detection, identification and relative quantification of toxic bloom-forming microalgae, microbial water quality bioindicators and common pathogens. Significantly, Cyanobacterial and Proteobacterial sequences accounted for ca. 95% of all sequences obtained within NGS runs (when compared to ca. 50% with standard universal NGS primers), providing higher sensitivity and greater phylogenetic resolution of key water quality microbial groups. The increased selectivity of the new primers allow the parallel sequencing of more samples through reduced sequence retrieval levels required to detect target groups, potentially reducing NGS costs by 50% but still guaranteeing optimal coverage and species discrimination.