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Blue Green Algae

All warnings on this page are current. They will only be updated when the situation changes.


Suspected BGA Bloom

There are no current blooms.


BGA Management

How does Southern Rural Water monitor BGA?

SRW is responsible for monitoring and reporting on BGA in our storages, channels and drains. We also have similar responsibilities on some waterways (e.g. the Macalister River).

SRW conducts regular visual inspections and if BGA is suspected, samples are taken and sent to an independent laboratory for analysis.

In channels and drains, it is not possible for us to continuously monitor water quality due to the extent of our supply network (over 600km in length). Instead, we strategically monitor our network if and when suspected BGA blooms are reported by field staff and the public.

How does Southern Rural Water manage BGA?

We have a BGA Incident Response plan in accordance with the circular produced by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.

Our BGA Incident Response Plan details our management and reporting activities if high levels of BGA are detected. While we manage all blooms as potentially toxic, our reporting depends on the species cell count results.

These range from least serious (Level 1 – Minor Incident) to most serious (Level 3 – Major Incident). For example, if a bloom at Level 2 or above is detected, we notify the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, the relevant Urban Water Authority, interested stakeholders, and where appropriate, the Department of Health and Human Services.

Depending on the location and seriousness of the bloom we may also decide to:

  • erect signs at key locations and boat ramps,
  • issue a media release warning the public of the bloom, and
  • undertake additional monitoring.

What is a Level 1 Recreation bloom?

A Level 1 bloom does not necessarily mean that the water is unsafe, but is an indicator that the level of BGA may be increasing and could become a concern.

The concentration of BGA required for a Level 1 bloom is: 0.2 mm3/L biovolume.

When BGA concentrations reach this level we increase our surveillance and monitoring, including the taking of fortnightly samples at the relevant storage.

In accordance with the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning’s guidelines, we do not notify the public of a Level 1 bloom but do increase our level of monitoring and surveillance.

What is a Level 2 Recreation bloom?

A Level 2 bloom indicates that BGA has been detected at a concentration that may pose a risk to human health.

There are a variety of factors that trigger a Level 2 bloom:

  • Microcystis aeroginosa is present at ≥ 50,000 cells/mL
  • Total combined Biovolume of known toxic BGA species is ≥ 4 mm3/L
  • Total combined Biovolume of all BGA species is ≥ 10 mm3/L
  • BGA scums consistently present

When we detect a Level 2 bloom, we erect warning signs and issue media releases advising people to avoid coming into contact with the water. We also place a warning on our website.

 What is the difference between Level 1 or 2 Recreation bloom, and a Level 1 or 2 Water Supply bloom?

Some of the water in our storages is supplied to towns as drinking water. We do not supply the water directly to towns, but rather supply water to Gippsland Water and Western Water who then treat the water and provide it to towns.

A Level 1 Water Supply bloom has the same trigger level as a Level 1 Recreation bloom (i.e. 0.2 mm3/L Biovolume).

A Level 2 Water Supply bloom has lower trigger levels than a Level 2 Recreation bloom:

  • Total microcystins are detected at ≥ 1.3µg/L (microcystins-LR toxicity equivalents)
  • Microcystis aeroginosa is present at ≥ 6,500 cells/ml
  • Total combined biovolume of known toxic BGA species is ≥ 0.6 mm3/L
  • Total combined biovolume of all BGA species is ≥ 10 mm3/L

OR

  • BGA are present in drinking water at levels that may cause widespread public complaint, for example through taste and odour

SRW increases monitoring activities, including weekly sampling and daily visual inspections, and notifies Gippsland Water and Western Water when a Level 2 Water Supply bloom is detected. We also erect warning signs advising people to avoid coming into contact with the water, and place a warning on our website.

 Gippsland Water and Western Water are responsible for determining whether the water is safe for use. They undertake their own monitoring and notify the community of any outbreaks, if necessary.

For any concerns regarding the quality of water sourced from Blue Rock Reservoir or Lake Glenmaggie by Gippsland Water, please contact Gippsland Water on 1800 066 401.

For any concerns regarding the quality of water sourced from Rosslynne, Merrimu or Pykes Creek Reservoirs by Western Water, please contact Western Water on 1300 650 425.

 What should I do if I suspect a BGA bloom in one of your storages, channels or drains?

If you suspect a BGA bloom in one of our waterways you should contact us on 1300 139 510.

Please ensure when calling that you are able to provide a specific location of the suspected bloom and a contact name and phone number. That way, staff inspecting the bloom will be able to contact you if they cannot find the bloom.


Blue Green Algae FAQs

What is blue green algae?
Blue green algae (BGA) occurs naturally in waterways, wetlands and water storages. It is a common seasonal occurrence in Victoria and a natural component of most aquatic systems, including streams, lakes, estuaries and the sea.

BGA can appear singularly or in colonies. The individual cells are very small, and can therefore be present without being visible.

Blooms can be triggered by nutrient levels, low inflows, lower storage volumes and warmer weather conditions.

Blooms can be unsightly, ranging in colour from dark-green to yellowish-brown. They may develop a paint-like consistency as they dry out and often have a pungent smell.

However, you may not always be able to see or smell BGA.

 What should I do if I suspect a BGA bloom in my farm dam?
You should contact the Department of Economic Development, Transport, Jobs and Resources if you suspect that you may have BGA in your dam.

 Is there any BGA in Southern Rural Water’s storages?
SRW monitors its storages to determine the suitability of the water for recreation and drinking purposes.

SRW advises the public of any BGA outbreaks in accordance with the guidelines produced by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning’s BGA Circular.

See the top of this page for current information on any outbreaks.

Can I drink the water in Southern Rural Water’s storages?
The water contained in our storages is raw water. Whether BGA is present or not, the water is not fit for human consumption without being properly treated.

You should not drink water containing BGA.

 Can I boil water to remove BGA?
You should not boil water containing BGA.

Boiling the water will not remove the BGA and has the potential to release toxins into the air which could make you ill if you inhale them.

 Can I swim in the water?
We recommend that you do not swim or undertake other water activities that could involve direct contact with the water (e.g. water skiing and jet skiing) at sites:

  • for which we have issued a Level 2 Recreation BGA warning
  • where warning signs have been erected, or
  • at sites where you believe BGA may be present (i.e. you can see or smell it).

 How can BGA affect me?
BGA contains compounds that can irritate the skin. Whether you will react to them depends on a number of factors, as some people are naturally more sensitive than others.

Some BGAs are toxic and produce harmful chemicals. If these toxins are inhaled or consumed, or touch the skin, they can cause allergic reactions, skin and eye irritations, muscle tremors, gastroenteritis or damage to the liver.

What should I do if I come into contact with BGA?
If you come into direct contact with BGA, you should wash immediately in fresh water. If you experience a health issue you think is related to contact with water contaminated by BGA, please seek medical advice promptly.

What should I do if I drink water containing BGA?
You should seek medical advice if you have consumed water containing BGA.

Can my dog swim in or drink BGA-affected water?
Dogs can also be affected by BGA, so it is safer not to let them come into contact with water in areas:

  • for which we have issued a (Level 2 Recreation) BGA warning
  • where warning signs have been erected, or
  • at sites where you believe BGA may be present (i.e. you can see or smell it).

If your dog or any other animals comes into direct contact with BGA, you should wash them immediately in fresh water. Please seek veterinary advice for further information.

Can my livestock swim in or drink BGA affected water?
Livestock can also be affected by BGA. It is safer not to let them come in contact with water in areas:

  • for which we have issued a BGA warning
  • where warning signs have been erected, or
  • at sites where you believe BGA may be present (i.e. you can see or smell it).

SRW has established some specific guidelines for our irrigation customers, and will notify customers when BGA concentrations are at a level that could affect the health of livestock, crops and pastures.

When will the BGA disappear?
BGA can form and die quickly (i.e. in a matter of days.). It is difficult to predict when it will disappear. However, it tends to die off when it is cooler (e.g. cloudy/windy days).

 What will Southern Rural Water do to remove the BGA?
It is very difficult to control a BGA outbreak, or remove it. There are no cost effective options to remove it from large water bodies.


Where Can I Get More Information?

For information about BGA in SRW’s storages, channels and drains you can:

  • call our BGA information line on 1300 781 806 for a recorded message detailing current blooms, or
  • call us on 1300 139 510, or
  • send us an email

Information regarding BGA in farm dams and agricultural information can be obtained from the Department of Economic Development, Transport, Jobs and Resources.

Health information can be obtained from the Department of Health and Human Services.

 

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