Townsville water update – 1400hrs 12 February

Date published: 12 February 2021

Townsville City Council has reconfigured water intake levels at Ross River Dam and enhanced treatment processes at the Douglas Water Treatment Plant resulting in improvements in the colour of the water being distributed throughout the city’s water network.

Water with significantly less discolouration may take a number of days to work through into the city’s households.

Council continues to work with the Department of Health to rigorously test water multiple times a day at different locations across the city to ensure it continues to meet all applicable health standards and is safe to drink.

Council will continue to monitor blue-green algae and intake levels in the Ross River Dam and adjust treatment processes to continue to deliver less discoloured water while maintaining the applicable health standards.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why is the water discoloured?
    • The Ross River Dam, Townsville's primary water supply, is currently experiencing an outbreak of blue-green algae. Effects of blue-green algae blooms tend to be worsened by hot weather and inflow form recent rainfall.

      While blue-green algae outbreaks are common, this particular bloom is blocking filters and imposing treatment complications at the Douglas Treatment Plant.

      Some microscopic particles of blue-green algae pass through the filters. In addition, the soluble minerals available in the dam due to the bloom,contribute to the discolouration.

  • Is the water safe to drink?
    • Yes, the water is safe to drink and bathe in.

      The network is extensively tested daily to ensure all water meets the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines. We are also working closely with and receiving advice from Queensland Public Health and the Water Supply Regulator. The discolouration is a visual issue and is not a health concern.
  • Is it safe for my pets?
    • Yes.
  • Why is there a chlorine odour when running tap water?
    • The normal water treatment dosage is currently slightly higher than usual as we adjust our treatment methods to respond to the blue-green algae issues we are managing, however dosage is well within health guidelines. Our water supply to residents continues to comply with the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines. Our team is currently working to lower chlorine residual in the system.

      Helpful tip!
      To dilute the chlorine taste or odour for drinking, place water in an open-top container in the fridge or on the kitchen counter and the chlorine will dissipate out naturally.
  • Why are only some suburbs impacted?
    • Different suburbs (and sometimes different streets in larger suburbs) are pumped from various water supplies. Only some suburbs are being affected by the discoloured water and we are working to minimise affected suburbs.
  • How long will this issue of discolouration take to resolve?
    • This issue depends on the weather and environmental conditions causing elevated levels of blue-green algae in the dam. Council is continuing to do everything possible to alleviate the situation and will continue to update the community.
  • Who is testing the water?
    • Townsville Laboratory Services is testing the water multiple times a day. Townsville City Council Laboratory Services is a NATA accredited laboratory (National Association of Testing Authorities).

      Results are confirmed and supplied to Queensland Health (Townsville Public Health Unit) and the Water Supply Regulator's office.

      Townsville City Council continues to test the water quality and liaise with the Department of Health on a daily basis. To publish the complete test results requires up to 5 days of analysis of the  NATA certified laboratory. View the test results from Monday 22 February 2021.

  • Has this happened before in Townsville?
    • Not to this extent. In late 2018, blue-green algae was detected in and flushed out during the 2019 floods. It was detected again in mid-2019 and numbers have been fluctuating but steadily increasing.
  • Does this happen in other places?
    • Yes. This is a worldwide issue. The long, hot summers experienced worldwide are compounding the problem (Mt Isa have had a bloom since 2014).
  • What is Council doing?
    • Townsville City Council is working to manage the impacts of the blue-green algae bloom.

Download the Discoloured water: Frequently Asked Questions (PDF, 37.6 KB)