Townsville Water Updates

Townsville Water is committed to providing safe, reliable and cost-effective water services to the Townsville community. Townsville Water is a registered Service Provider under the Water Supply (Safety and Reliability) Act 2008.

Recently, Ross River Dam experienced an algal bloom, which has resulted in the discolouration of water throughout Townsville.

The water continues to meet all applicable health standards and is safe to drink.

Water quality testing shows that Council’s efforts to address the water discolouration are working. However, some pockets of the city may experience temporary discolouration as the system returns to normal. Council is working closely with highly-regarded water quality experts around the clock to resolve the issue.

The ongoing effects of blue-green algae

The emergence of algae in natural and man-made water bodies, as well as inside treatment plants, is becoming a global concern. Townsville’s extensive waterways are no exception.

Throughout the year, algal blooms impact rivers, creeks, reservoirs, urban lakes and lagoons and can produce toxins and taste-and-odour compounds. Effectively managing these blooms requires time and resources including extensive and wide-ranging analytical testing.

Blue-green algae thrive in warm water temperatures and stagnant or slow-moving water bodies – conditions native to North Queensland. It is expected that in Townsville, the frequency and duration of blue-green algal blooms will continue, or increase, in the future.

Blue-green algae factsheet (PDF, 1.4 MB)

The ongoing water quality strategy

Bruce Murray from City Water Technology is working with Townsville City Council on the ongoing water quality strategy.

Watch the video below to learn about what is happening in North Queensland.

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 has successfully managed the process so that the chlorine levels are now much lower.

      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. 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.
      * View the test results from Tuesday 9 March 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)