Toxic algae sightings

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Naturally occurring toxic algae (or cyanobacteria) can be harmful to human and animal health.

In Otago, we commonly see toxic algae blooms in lakes and rivers during the summertime. It may be present at sites not listed here – conditions can change quickly and so can the risk of contact.

The best way to stay safe is to learn how to spot toxic algae. Always check the area for signs of toxic algae before you (and your pets) play in or around the water.

 

Current toxic algae alerts

Water testing has confirmed moderate to high levels of toxic algae the following sites*. Avoid contact with the water and any toxic algae mats floating in the shallows or on the banks until further notice:

Before you get in the water, check if it's all good to swim.
See the water quality of your favourite swim spot by visiting LAWA: www.lawa.org.nz/swim

Pinders Pond, Central Otago - issued 14 February 2024

Falls Dam, North Otago - issued 29 January 2024

Kauru River, North Otago – issued 15 January 2024

Lake Tuakitoto, South Otago – issued 8 January 2024

Waianakarua River, North Otago – issued 8 January 2024

Manuherekia River at Ophir, Central Otago – issued 15 December 2023

 

 

*Sites will be removed from this list once monitoring results show the toxic algae risk has returned to the 'green/surveillance' level, according to the national guidelines.

 

Toxic algae in lake looks like green pea soup.

Toxic algae in lake looks like green pea soup.

Toxic algae in rivers looks like dark tar mats on riverbeds and banks.

Toxic algae in rivers looks like dark tar mats on riverbeds and banks.

Known cyanobacteria hotspots in Otago

Rivers:

  • Silver Stream, Mosgiel
  • Cardrona River, Central Otago
  • Manuherekia River, Central Otago
  • Hāwea River, Central Otago
  • Waianakarua River, North Otago

Lakes:

  • Lake Waihola, Dunedin
  • Tomahawk Lagoon, Dunedin
  • Butchers Dam, Central Otago

 

What should I do if I’ve been in contact with toxic algae?

If you think you have experienced a reaction after exposure to water containing toxic algae, seek urgent medical attention. Let your doctor know that you think you have swallowed toxic algae, so that they can inform Regional Public Health of the incident.  

Swallowing water containing toxic algae lead to vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, and nausea. Skin contact can cause irritation of the skin, eyes, nose, and mouth. The toxins can also affect the liver and the nervous system.

Dogs are particularly susceptible to poisoning as they can be attracted to the musty smell of toxic algae mats – if eaten it can cause severe poisoning or death. In extreme cases death can occur within 30 minutes after signs first appear. If your dog experiences these symptoms treat it as an emergency and contact a veterinarian immediately.

Livestock are also at risk from poisoning from toxic algae and should be provided with alternative drinking water.

Symptoms of poisoning in animals include:

  • Lethargy
  • Muscle tremors
  • Fast breathing
  • Twitching
  • Paralysis
  • Convulsions

Useful information

 

See our Toxic Algae information page to learn more about toxic algae.

View the latest water quality results for popular swimming spots and useful factsheets at LAWA www.lawa.org.nz/swim

 

 

What should I do if I see toxic algae?

Report suspected toxic algal blooms to the ORC Pollution Hotline 0800 800 033 (7 days) or email us 

Photographs of observed algal blooms will help us to quickly identify toxic algae and notify others about potential risks.

 

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