Focusing on water management
An algae (lindavia intermedia) that exudes a slimy substance called lake snow was recently found in Lakes Wanaka, Wakatipu and Hawea.
Although it is non-toxic, it’s a nuisance for water users. If it gets into the residential water supply, it can cause blockages, and clog filters and household appliances.
The Otago Regional Council is working with stakeholders and researchers to find out more about what it is, where it comes from, what influences it and how it could be managed.
The draft annual plan includes a proposal to allocate staff time and $100,000 of general rates towards researching the problem.
The research is crucial – it’s our best hope of identifying the causes of lake snow.
The council hosted a technical workshop in December.
As a followup, research priority was given to a genetic study being undertaken for the council by Phil Novis, of
Landcare Research, to trace the algal source and clarify whether it is an invasive species from the Northern Hemisphere.
We expect to have the results of genetic testing on this algae in June.
This will help inform what the next research priority is and determine if it is a national issue as a new incursion.
As a council, we are under no illusions about the importance of these southern lakes to our community, our environment, and our economy, since their picture-postcard scenery attracts visitors from around New
Zealand and the world.
We are giving it high priority, endeavouring to discover what the triggers are for this algae and work to find ways to minimise its disruptive impact on people and the environment.
We have also been working with stakeholders to ensure the community is informed of the facts.
The Wanaka community turned out in droves for the Lab at the Lake event that we ran on April 2 in partnership with the University of Otago’s Catchments Otago research theme group.
Around 450 people engaged with lake science via live fish displays, face painting of fish based on the species living in Lake Wanaka, clarity tubes, a ‘dress up as a lake scientist’ photo op, water quality display content, Lab-in- a-box, a Check Clean Dry display, and more. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive.
About 50 people attended The Lakes and I PechaKucha night on March 31 at Queenstown Primary School. Six speakers spoke about their connection to the lakes in rapid-fire presentations of 20 slides in 20 seconds each.
It’s great to see so many people turning out for events like these and showing so much interest in the science and monitoring we are doing.
The draft annual plan for 2017-18 has a strong focus on water management and water quality.
It is out for public consultation and submissions close on May 12.
Stephen Woodhead is chairman of Otago Regional Council.