Warm temperatures, low dam levels and high nutrients have encouraged the growth of blue-green algae in three Lower Hunter waterways.
Sampling undertaken by Maitland council last week indicated Rathluba and Telarah lagoons, as well as Walka Water Works, had experienced an increase in blue-green algae.
The microscopic cells grow naturally in Australian fresh and saline waters.
However, when conditions are favourable for algae, growth blooms can occur, which are seen through a thick, paint-like accumulation on the water’s surface, or as small green floating dots.
The council’s manager for development and environment, David Simm, said caution should be used at any waterbody, particularly dams.
“Blue-green algae can be a serious environmental and human health problem, with the release of toxins and skin irritants,” he said.
“Domestic pets and livestock should also be prevented from coming into contact with the water.”
Blue-green algae may cause severe stomach upsets, nausea and skin irritation in both people and animals.
To help reduce the likelihood of a bloom occurring in one of Maitland’s water bodies this summer, residents can reduce the amount of nutrients going into local waterways by washing their car on the grass or at a car wash, using a broom not a hose to clear up leaves, cleaning out the gutter regularly, and being responsible in the application of fertilisers.