Heat brings warning
Extreme hot February weather has prompted catchment and water managers to urge people cooling off in lakes and waterways across the region to heed warnings about blue-green algae.
They also hope sporadic cool snaps continue for the remainder of summer and into autumn to disrupt the potential of algal blooms.
Several days of high temperatures, some soaring into the low 40s last week, provided ideal conditions for blue-green algae to thrive and might have provided the catalyst for a bloom at Taylors Lake, south-east of Horsham.
The detection of blue-green algae above levels considered safe for recreational use prompted Gwmwater to issue a warning to the public to avoid direct contact with water in Taylors Lake.
Toxic blue-green algae naturally occurs in freshwater rivers and lakes and is usually harmless in low concentrations.
But when stimulated by warm, still conditions and an over-abundance of nutrients it can work its way to the surface and proliferate before dying and releasing toxins into the environment.
The toxins can be dangerous to humans and animals, but Taylors Lake remains open to boating, sightseeing and other activities where people avoided direct contact with lake water.
Lakes across the region, including Green Lake near Taylors Lake, have been recreational magnets for swimmers, boating enthusiasts, anglers and sightseers since water flowed into the region during heavy winter and spring rain last year.
The absence of toxic blue-green algae has also been a major drawcard in most areas.
Gwmwater’s Andrew Rose urged water-sport enthusiasts to follow the media for updates, look for and take heed of warning signs.
“They could perhaps also check the website of organisations such as Gwmwater, Wimmera Catchment Management Authority and municipal councils,” he said. Wimmera CMA chief executive David Brennan echoed the sentiments, adding people should take the time to investigate circumstances when planning a trip or outing to a lake, wetland or waterway.
“We’re not saying don’t enjoy the environment – having water in our lakes has been a long time coming and the reality is that we’ve had few algal outbreaks this summer,” he said.
“Having such great access to water has been wonderful for the region in general.
“But it is important to remember that consecutive days where temperatures are in the high 30s or low 40s often provide an ideal environment for the generation of algal blooms.
“It’s not a good idea to be anywhere near water where there is a blue-green algae bloom and it is important to be aware of authorities issuing warnings.”
Municipal authorities issued bluegreen algae warnings for Walkers Lake near St Arnaud and Alexandra Gardens in Ararat earlier this year.
The Taylors Lake warning is the first from Gwmwater’s major storages this summer.
Wimmera CMA has had no reports of high levels of blue-green algae in the Wimmera River.
Mr Brennan said environmental flows, combined with seasonal circumstances, were most likely helping mitigate the potential for algal blooms in the river.
PICTURE PERFECT: Ben Hobbs of Horsham will be among many water enthusiasts hoping bluegreen algae outbreaks stay away from popular recreation waters such as Green Lake, south of Horsham. He is pictured soaking up the environment from Green Lake’s iconic tree stump.