The largest lake in the Lake District is on the verge of ecological disaster, according to a water campaigner.
Windermere has turned green after potentially toxic algae blooms worsened last week during the heatwave.
Resident, zoologist and water campaigner, Matt Staniek, 26, has created a petition to save Windermere from “sewage and an environmental catastrophe”.
He spoke out this week after posting several images and videos on social media showing fish in distress and the discolored lake.
Matt claimed nutrients from pollutants such as phosphorus have densely accumulated to support the growth of algae which then depleted the lake of oxygen, harming wildlife.
He said: “This is being exacerbated by climate change, and by our lake system that is not adaptable to this threat because we’re having more and more excess nutrients enter the lake. The water is getting warmer and we have more flooding and droughts on the way which worsen algal bloom.
“We are looking at the death of Windermere.”
Matt alleged the two biggest sources of phosphorus entering Windermere were from United Utilities wastewater treatment assets and 1,900 private septic tanks.
He has called for the water firm to invest in its infrastructure around Windermere to ensure it was able to cope with increasing rainfall and tourism.
United Utilities has been approached for comment.
Matt added: “It’s my belief they haven’t had enough investment to deal with the pressure of tourism as it increases, which means we have an antiquated and inadequate structure that leads to more sewage spills and more phosphorous going into the water.
In one of the videos posted by Matt, a fish can be seen swimming erratically in circles. He claimed there were three main causes that could be behind the behavior – including neurotoxins from the algae, distressingly high water temperatures or oxygen levels dropping too low as a result of the blooms.
He said: “If we go into drought like the south has, we will get hundreds of thousands of dead fish wash up on the shores of Windermere because they can’t adapt to the different pressures and levels of oxygen fast enough.
“If nobody can tell us if blue green algae is present and nobody can say it is a toxic species or what stage life cycle it is in, then Windermere should be treated as toxic for pets, people and wildlife.”
Matt said he wanted Windermere to be turned into a Site of Special Scientific Interest and special area of conservation in order to protect wildlife and create a legal mandate to lower nutrient levels and avoid algal bloom.
He is also wants the Environment Agency to receive more funding so it is able to properly monitor septic tanks in the catchment.
Matt added: “Windermere is the epitome for fresh water nationally, and if the Government is failing to protect Windermere, then what is happening to your local river? We need more voices getting behind this.”
A spokesperson for Love Windermere partnership, said: “Windermere is a very special place and we are determined to do everything possible to protect and improve it for generations to come.
“The lake is certainly not dying. It is however affected by a number of complex challenges including the impact of more extreme weather caused by climate change, an excess of nutrients and seasonal variations of the tourist population.
“We are committed to developing the most effective solutions to maintain and improve water quality in the lake, including collating more scientific evidence to better understand the particular pressures on Windermere to allow us to target more effectively our interventions.”
Matt is a zoologist, conservationist and the director of Windermere Lake Recovery CIC.