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Byron Shire
April 23, 2021

Water weed could ‘help clean up’ Lake Ainsworth

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Water hyacinth, which is an endemic weed on the north coast, if harvested strategically could remove phosphorous from Lake Ainsworth, according to Ballina Cr Jeff Johnson. File photo
Water hyacinth, which is an endemic weed on the north coast, if harvested strategically could remove phosphorous from Lake Ainsworth, according to Ballina Cr Jeff Johnson. File photo

A Ballina councillor says the endemic north coast weed water hyacinth could be used strategically to remove excess phosphorous from Lake Ainsworth.

Cr Jeff Johnson said a recently completed Ballina Council report into the water quality in Lake Ainsworth revealed that phosphorus levels have increased by approximately 100 per cent over the last 20 years.

He added that the higher levels of phosphorus in the lake increase the frequency and severity of algal blooms, including blue green algae.

‘I was successful in getting the council to investigate the source of and feasibility of reducing the level of nutrients (i.e. phosphorus) in the water at Lake Ainsworth to improve the long-term health of the lake,’ Cr Johnson said in a letter to constituents.

‘Some possible reasons include an increase in sunscreen use (which contains phosphorus), urine, or leaking sewage pipes.

‘Identifying the cause is crucial to reducing the future impact that increasing nutrient levels will have on the long-term viability of this important natural area and its safe use for swimmers,’ Cr Johnson said.

Grows vigorously

He went on to praise Lennox Land care volunteers, who have been removing water hyacinth from the Lake, ‘which grows vigorously in the nutrient rich water.’

But he noted that water hyacinth ‘does remove phosphorus and other nutrients from the water and its removal might be able to be coordinated in a way that increases its ability to remove additional phosphorus.’

‘The key is to ensure that it is removed before it produces seed.

‘Lake Ainsworth is one of the jewels on the north coast and Ballina Council needs to do all it can to ensure its long-term health so that it can continue to be a swimming and recreation area long into the future,’ Cr Johnson said.

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  1. Water hyacinth is a weed – it is not endemic to Australia, it is native (endemic) to South America. Please do not call it endemic, this is factually incorrect.

    On mass this plant will smother the water surface, blocking out light to native aquatic plants and preventing aquatic animals (fish) from accessing the water surface. It spreads vegetatively – small plants breaking off a parent to create new ones as well as from seed.

    Yes the plant is good at removing nutrients, but how about addressing the source of the nutrients (leaking sewage pipes).

    More information can be found on the NSW DPI website which states “Water hyacinth is one of the world’s worst aquatic weeds.”.

  2. Time for more people to read Fred Pearce’s THE NEW WILD. Pearce, a veteran environmental writer for the New Scientist, used to think invasive species were evil interlopers which set out to ruin natural eco systems. In his study he explores eco systems from the Australian outback to the Thames estuary and finds that our ideas about the balance of nature are now seriously outdated.

    A few years ago Nature magazine presented a peer reviewed study that found the common morning glory vine, often seen growing profusely around old tick dipping sites in our region here, was actually detoxifying the heavily contaminated soil that remained from the chemicals used on the cattle. Still we see morning glory being poisoned as an “invasive”.

    Pearce argues, with endorsement from James Lovelock, that in this era of rapid climate change and the ecological damage, the dynamism of so called alien species, which usually thrive in the niches humans have created, can help nature regenerate and provides us with a better chance of adapting to the future.

    THE NEW WILD was voted the best book of 2015 by the Conservative Economist magazine.

  3. As noted, as it is already there, it presents an opportunity to clean up the mess and also becomes a business opportunity, When harvested, this is one of the best fertilizers available. It can be used as a wonderful mulch, or when composted becomes a valuable nutrient dense, high value organic compost.

  4. interesting discussion.
    i think that shellfish are a better first step.
    they filter enormous amounts of water and
    around the world — and even in Australia — communitities
    are deliberately putting clams, oysters and other shellfish BACK’
    into the waters to clean them up…

  5. is “sugar cane” fertilizer polluting the everglades
    I put this into the search engine and found many articles on how phosphorus fertiliser used in sugar cane farming is destroying the great Everglades .
    This ECHO article mentions possible causes of P pollution as urin,sunscreen and a possible sewer leak.
    Well it would take a real lot more than people useing sunscreen and urin is also doubtful unless the whole town goes there so that leaves sewer and lake Ainsworth would only have the camps sewer running by.
    All these sources don’t add up to the amount of phosphorus needed to cause the levels of contamination.
    Not far off as the crow flies are the cane fields which share a water table with the lake.
    The cane needs large amounts of phosphorus each season.
    Is it just possible that ?


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