12 May 2023

Councillor hopes new solutions will keep Lake Albert open and healthy

| Chris Roe
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Man with water jug

Cr Mick Henderson remains hopeful they will find a solution to the blue-green algae problem. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

Wagga City councillor and commodore of the Wagga Boat Club, Mick Henderson, is hopeful they will be able to stay on top of Lake Albert’s blue-green algae issues and keep the lake open year-round.

“We’re currently working with some companies in regards to that and we’re hoping to do some trials of different approaches over the next year that will hopefully be effective so the lake can remain open 365 days,” he said.

Lake Albert was finally given the “all-clear” by Wagga City Council late last month after a blue-green alert was issued in January.

Signs were posted around the shore, including warnings that even pets should avoid the toxic bloom.

READ ALSO Lake Albert gets the ‘all-clear’ for now but a blue-green algae solution remains elusive

Councillor Henderson said that the five solar-powered buoys installed in 2018 to use ultrasound technology to disrupt algal blooms had been effective to a point.

“They have worked, but due to the size of the algae blooms, they can’t keep up with the control of it,” he said.

The ultrasound affects the buoyancy of the algae, causing it to sink to the bottom where it degrades and dies off.

“It was a very unusual year this year because while it wasn’t extremely hot, some of the blooms were quite big,” Cr Henderson explained.

“So the buoys are effective but unfortunately they are not effective enough.”

Lake Albert

Lake Albert was reopened to the public last month. Photo: City of Wagga Wagga.

External nutrients, including farming chemicals and domestic products such as weed killer and laundry powder, are introduced to the water through runoff and are a major cause of the increasingly regular algae outbreaks.

The fact that Lake Albert is a closed water system makes it hard for the nutrients to be flushed out and even when the blooms are controlled, the nutrients continue to build up.

Recirculating water around the system has proven beneficial in other problem areas and Cr Henderson said the long-awaited pipeline to the river was vital.

In 2021, council signed a memorandum of understanding with the NSW government to transfer up to 1.8 gigalitres of water from the Murrumbidgee River to top up Lake Albert during the cooler months.

Proposed for completion in April last year, the funding is yet to come through and council is still waiting for an actual water licence to be issued.

“We’re currently in negotiations with Wagga City Council and Riverina Water and we’ve got to get the set design completed,” Cr Henderson explained.

“But funding is going to be the key issue to the whole pipeline infrastructure, so once we get the design then we’ve got to seek grants to complete it.”

READ ALSO Sergeant Steve Bloomfield retires after three decades of dedicated police service

Another proven method to combat blue-green algae is through revegetation and nurturing aquatic plants along the shore.

“The willow trees were removed 15 years ago due to the nature and style of those trees, and I would actually like to see those trees replaced,” he said.

“They take a lot of nutrients out of the water which reduces the algae so they wouldn’t be beneficial in both life for fish and the reduction in algae blooms.”

Looking ahead, Cr Henderson said that the boat club was in the best shape it had been in for more than a decade and he looked forward to a bright future for Lake Albert.

“We need to resolve this constant water level solution, get on top of the blue-green algae and we’re also cleaning up around the foreshores and just beautifying it a little bit more for the community.”

You can keep up with the latest on Wagga’s Lake Albert here.

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