After three months of getting up close and personal with blue-green algae, Lake Albert’s residents believe one solution might be to bring back the much-loved willow trees to the lake’s banks.
Lake Albert has always been particularly susceptible to outbursts of blue-green algae, but the last decade has been particularly bad, culminating in what has now become the worst outbreak in the lake’s history.
Now, some of Wagga’s lakeside residents are saying it is no coincidence that Lake Albert’s algae outbreaks have gotten worse since the willows were removed.
Lake Albert resident Claire Baker, who has lived by the lake since 2000, still remembers how the sadness residents felt when Wagga City Council removed the willows in 2013.
“When they cleared the lake, it looked so bare around the edges,” Ms Baker said.
“The willows provide that beautiful draping flowing effect, and they add to the aesthetics of the whole lake and the landscape.”
However, it wasn’t just the beauty of the willows the residents were mourning; they also believe it is no coincidence that the lake’s blue-green algae outbreaks became more frequent after the willows were removed.
“I remember the willows provided a bit more shade around the edge of the lake where the blue-green algae is now very noticeable,” Ms Baker said.
“I'm no expert, but with all the nutrients and the soil that is coming down into the water, the willows might have actually helped the situation.”
Riverina ecologist Geoff Sainty, on the other hand, is an expert, and he said introducing more plants to the wetlands around the lake is exactly what Lake Albert needs to control its algal blooms.
“Cynobacteria are cunning little buggers – they’ve been around for 3.5 billions years, so they’ve got a good track record,” Mr Sainty said.
“The only hope you've got is to try and prevent their ability to dominate in the water, and you do that by introducing more plants and trees to compete with the algae and change the nature of the water.”
Residents put up much protest before the willows were cut down in 2013, with the council ultimately justifying their removal by saying they were not a native specie.