In December 2017 a toxic algae was discovered in Lake Taupō, prompting a district-wide response. Algae blooms naturally occur in hot calm conditions across many of our rivers lakes and streams and are generally harmless. However, in December 2017 high levels of potentially toxic blue-green algae were found at six popular swimming spots around the lake edge.
We worked closely with Waikato Regional Council, Toi te Ora Public Health, and Tūwharetoa Maori Trust Board to close swimming areas and keep the public informed. Our water team used drones to monitor the algae’s spread, and shut down drinking water supplies in some areas as a precautionary measure. Water tankers were bought in to provide these communities with drinking water during this time. We also had staff driving to Auckland to hand-deliver water samples for testing, and personally contacted those drawing drinking water directly from the lake.
As the algae is naturally occurring there is always a risk that it will return during calm hot conditions. Water nutrient levels can affect the spread of algae, and we continue to work with landowners and others in the Lake Taupō catchment to improve water quality. We continue to meet with our partners on a six monthly basis to review and refine our response plans should a similar event happen again in the future.
Look before you leap
If the water looks discoloured, smells unusual, if there is scum on the surface, or the water has green or brown particles suspended in it - then it is best to avoid contact with the water and swim or play somewhere else.
Taupo District Council has comprehensive monitoring in place to ensure the quality and safety of ALL drinking water at ALL times.
For advice on drinking water call the Taupo District Council on 0800 ASK TDC (0800 275 832).
Questions and Answers
Read answers to frequently asked questions about algal blooms on the Waikato Regional Council website
These photos show you what the algae looks like. The first photo is an algal mat, like what you might see in the lake. This mat potentially contains toxic species of algae, such as Phormidium. The second photo shows Phoridium on a slice under a microscope.