Water quality at three sections of recreation spot Lake Ainsworth has been found to be poor in a NSW Government water health report.
Water quality at three sections of recreation spot Lake Ainsworth has been found to be poor in a NSW Government water health report. Marc Stapelberg

Lake Ainsworth water quality 'poor' says government report

WHILE the water health of most of the State's beaches, lagoons and estuaries has been given a tick of approval, one North Coast lake has seemingly missed the boat.

The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage State of the Beaches 2017-18 has rated water quality in three of the four sections of Lake Ainsworth as poor.

The report, released at the weekend, rated Lake Ainsworth North, East and West as poor, while Lake Ainsworth South received a good rating.

"Water quality at these sites is suitable for swimming some of the time, however they are highly susceptible to the impacts of wet weather during and for up to three days after rain,” the report said.

It said a poor rating meant a "location is susceptible to faecal pollution and microbial water quality is not always suitable for swimming. During dry weather conditions, ensure that the swimming location is free of signs of pollution, such as discoloured water, odour or debris in the water, and avoid swimming at all times during and for up to three days following rainfall.”

The State of the Beach report looked at the coastline from Port Stephens to the Victorian border as well beaches and coastal water bodies in the Richmond and Ballina local government areas.

The report said coastal water pollution was mainly affected by rain events.

In 2017-2018: prolonged dry periods were broken by heavy rain at times, including widespread rainfall along the NSW coast in the last week of summer.

The Lake Ainsworth Sport and Recreation Centre, on the northern end of the lake, has hosted many Clarence Valley children at annual school camps.

The centre manager, Ben Wall, was not aware of the State of the Beach report, but said the centre received regular updates on the water quality of the lake from Ballina Shire Council.

"We're on an amber alert at the moment,” Mr Wall said. "The council has three grades, green, amber and red.

"At amber alert there is no restriction on swimming, but there are elevated amounts of algae in the water.

"When the alert becomes red, we close down the lake immediately.”

He said the centre is on a hotline to the council.

"They notify us immediately when there is a change in the water quality,” he said.

He said the water quality of the lake generally deteriorated after heavy rain followed by hot weather.

"That's when the algal blooms come up and we start seeing the biggest risk in water use,” he said.

"When that happens, even after the blooms disappear, the lake will be shut for up to three weeks.

"Thankfully that does not happen very often.”

The only other beach or estuarine water way to receive a poor rating was the Evans River, which moved from fair to poor. All other Richmond and Ballina water bodies were rated good or very good.