14 Jun 2018

Algae found in Lake Taupō could be 'a disaster'

7:31 am on 14 June 2018

A freshwater scientist is warning that the discovery of an algae which can create lake snow in Lake Taupō could be disastrous and needs to be taken seriously.

Lake Taupo

Lake Taupo Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The algae, Lindavia intermedia, creates lake snow, which is also known as lake snot.

Lake snow produces mucus-like slime which hangs and drifts in water and sticks to fishing gear, boat hulls and swimmers.

It is already present in the Southern Lakes including Lakes Wanaka, Coleridge, Wakatipu and Hawea and testing by the Waikato Regional Council indicates it is present in Lake Taupō and Lake Rotoaira.

The algae is not considered a risk to food sourced from lakes or rivers, or to humans or animals, but it can get into residential water supples and cause blockages, clog filters and household appliances connected to the system.

Researcher and expert in the algae Marc Schallenberg said not enough is known about the algae yet.

He said the slime in Lake Wanaka is particularly bad, and if Lake Taupō is similarly affected, "that would be a disaster for the lake and for the commercial fishery".

He also flagged the potential for big problems if water from Lake Taupō is used for the town's water supply because it clogs the water systems.

Dr Schallenberg said the affects on the ecology of the lakes is not known yet.

"Anything impacting a lake like Lake Taupō, our largest lake, arguably the most important lake, should be taken seriously," he said.

The algae has also been discovered for the first time in the Moawhango River and the Manawatu-Wanganui Regional Council has said it is most likely in Lake Moawhango.

The Waikato and Manawatu-Wanganui regional councils are working with researchers to find out more about the algae but there is no known way of removing it.