Community encouraged to rein in water use as blue-green algae levels surge

Date published: 13 December 2023

Blue-green algae levels at Ross River Dam have increased by more than 300 per cent during the past five months.

The elevated levels of blue-green algae and the city’s high-water use has placed increased demand on the Douglas Water Treatment Plant to treat the water.

Mayor Jenny Hill said the plant is having to treat a high volume of water and it’s taking longer to treat because of the increase in blue-green algae.

“Townsville residents are among some of the highest water users in Australia, using four times as much more water per person than in most major cities,” Cr Hill said.

“Over the past 12 months, we have seen that use increase further and most of that is going on to gardens and lawns.

“Every month we are removing 700 tonnes of solids from the water and now we are calling on the community to help us.

“As a community, we need to reduce our water use and help us to manage the spike in blue-green algae.

“By reducing the amount of water being consumed by the city, we’ll give the treatment plant more time to prepare clean drinking water for Townsville.

“Townsville City Council is already taking steps to conserve water, including reducing the water it uses on parks and open spaces from 107ML per week to 60ML per week.

“While areas of significance across Townsville like The Strand, Anderson Gardens and Queens Gardens will continue to have green grass, other areas may look a little bit drier.

“Conserving water in your household might seem like it’s not enough to make a difference, but every drop counts.

“As a rule of thumb, you should water your lawn no more than twice a week in the dry season and never in the wet season.

“We also want residents to embrace living in a dry tropics environment and it's ok to have a dry and brown lawn.

“By working together, we can help maintain our water supply across the city, so do your part by being waterwise.”

Blue-green algae are tiny cyanobacteria found in water and occur when specific environmental conditions align, including high nutrient levels, ample sunlight, warm water temperatures and stable water conditions.

Water and Resource Recovery Committee chairperson Russ Cook said every year the blooms in the Ross River Dam are getting bigger and lasting longer and are now stretching into the dry season.

“It’s not only being felt in Townsville as blue-green algae is also causing challenges for other local government areas.

“Over the past 12 months the team at Townsville Laboratory Services have conducted more than 5,500 tests for the cyanobacteria for multiple regions across Queensland.

“Townsville Laboratory Services have an extensive algae monitoring program from catchment to tap including our distribution network to ensure safe water supply to our residents.

“While our water treatment infrastructure has been able to keep up with the increased demand, it is stretched, and we are urging the community to play its part and conserve water.”

Visit our Water Conservation Measures page for more information on being waterwise.

Some tips to reduce water use

  • Install water-smart products around the home and garden.
  • Check for any leaks around the home.
  • Water your yard twice a week in the dry and never when it’s wet.
  • Stick to odds and even watering days.
  • Take the one-song shower challenge.
  • Plant climate-suitable trees and shrubs in your garden.
  • Cover your pools.