Heat brings warn­ing

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - Front Page - BY DEAN LAWSON

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.

Fol­low me­dia

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: RYAN THOMAS

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.

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