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Blue-green algae in Lake Bullen-Merri in Camperdown Check out our facebook feed for the community converstion.

3rd Jan 2019 – Enquiry

Dear Dr. Sherwood,

I believe you have done some studies in the past on the incidence of blue-green algae in Lake Bullen-Merri in Camperdown. 

The Camperdown & District Historical Society, through their Facebook page, has been asking for historical information on the occurrence of blue-green algae in the lake. More and more over the years, these occurrences have reduced the ability of the community to enjoy the lake during the summer months when it would be most appreciated.

Here is the link to the Facebook page, which has generated a great number of memories and opinions about the subject:

Some of the subjects mentioned are:
– the total involvement of the community in water sports – ski-ing, swimming, fishing, etc. in the years before algae was reported,
– using barley straw to generate oxygen,
– aerators in the lake – since removed,
– the absence of blue-green algae until around 1970-80s,
– the effect or not of superphosphate and/or other chemicals,
– the effect of livestock standing and pooing in the water.

Reading all the posts makes clear the frustrations of the public and the hope for a solution. 

Is there any more recent research on the subject? 

Is there any possibility of future research?  

Do you have any suggestions for a way to solve this problem?

The community is in need of help. Maybe you can point out a way.

Best regards,
Gillian Senior

9th Jan 2019 – REPLY

Hi Gillian,

Thanks for your email. I certainly share your frustration over the apparent increase in blue-green algae outbreaks. Sadly I doubt there is a “magic bullet” able to give a quick fix to this problem.

The basic issue is an oversupply of nutrients and the lake has a large store of these now which can fuel algae (if you like the lake is “over fertilised”).

The most detailed study of Lake Bullen Merri and its algae was by a PhD student based at Warrnambool (now Dr Michelle Herpich). between 1994 and 1996 and it is this work which gives us our best understanding of the lake’s seasonal behaviour.

I am a member of the Shire’s Lakes Advisory Committee and we produced several Fact Sheets about the lake based on Michelle and other’s work.

Copies were available from the Shire Office in Camperdown but I am not sure of the present situation. Our Committee has not met now for some time.

One area not well understood is the role of groundwater in adding nutrients and we have suggested this as a topic for research.

Control of nutrient additions to the lake must be a priority – we should avoid making the situation any worse. Aeration of the lake was trialed as a way of increasing lake circulation and avoiding the summer stratification.

The trial was not conclusive and it may be worthwhile setting up a more rigorous test of this technique. As always the question of who would pay is important.

It may be possible , with funding, to interest a university to set up another PhD project in one or more of these areas. Topics such as this could be explored through our Advisory Committee should the Shire decide to reconvene us.

It may be that we have to accept that there will be times – particularly in late summer and autumn when the lake cannot be accessed for some sports. It is sadly at exactly these times that we most desire to use it.

Sorry I cannot bear better news.