The Upper Hunter’s natural waterways and dams are all but gone and if current conditions weren’t challenging enough Water NSW has issued a red alert warning for blue-green algae present in the Hunter River.
Low rainfall, lack of inflows and the ongoing heat have seen favourable conditions for blue-green algae growth, which has already affected the Hunter region in years previous.
The red alert, being the highest level warning, is applicable to bodies of water from as north as Moonan Flat down to the Glenbawn Dam. Fortunately Glenbawn Dam itself has not been affected.
Upper Hunter Shire Council’s Manager for Water and Sewer Phillip Hood said Upper Hunter residents can rest easy knowing the algae will not affect their drinking supplies.
“Tests confirm there is currently no algae at the dam wall or downstream of Glenbawn Dam so there is no need for residents to worry about drinking water quality,” Mr Hood says.
“The WaterNSW alert is for upstream properties, and people who may be considering camping, swimming or fishing up stream of the dam where the flow has stopped completely.”
Given current drought conditions throughout the region, landowners and producers should also be aware of the alert and are being advised to ensure their water supplies are not affected by the algae by routinely checking for discolouration.
“Low flows have resulted in areas along the Hunter River forming stagnant pools and lagoons which have caused increased blue-green algae concentrations,” Water NSW spokesperson, Tony Webber says.
“Upstream of Glenbawn Dam has been affected by the algae but this won’t affect urban water supplies in the region.”
Blue-green algae usually appear as green paint-like scums on the water, near the edges, or as greenish clumps throughout the water. It makes the water appear dirty, green or discoloured and generally has a strong musty or earthy odour.
“This type of algae will cause physical irritation and the wider community is urged to avoid swimming or consuming water from these stagnant pools and lagoons,” Mr Webber says.
“The species of blue-green algae identified are potentially toxic and may cause gastroenteritis in humans if consumed and skin and eye irritations after contact.”
Water NSW says it is not possible to predict how long the algae will remain at high levels. Regular monitoring will continue and the alert will be lifted as soon as the high levels of algae dissipate.
The Upper Hunter Shire Council is in contact with Water NSW and will inform the community if the situation changes.