One look at internationally renowned waterways like London's River Thames would once have filled Canberrans with pride.
The dirty, brown water flowing past the UK capital's most famous landmarks was an eyesore and not one you could expect to see closer to home.
But things are changing on both sides of the globe.
During summer, the territory's lakes were transformed into swirling cesspits of potentially harmful cyanobacteria by what experts described as some of the worst blue-green algae blooms on record.
At the same time, the London waterway declared biologically dead in 1957 and described then as "a vast, foul-smelling drain" has effectively been brought back from the dead to become a thriving ecosystem.
The BBC lauded the turnaround three years ago, saying: "60 years ago, nothing could survive in the Thames, but today it is home to seals, porpoises and even the occasional stray whale."
While great strides are being made overseas, University of Canberra water ecologist Ross Thompson has described Lake Tuggeranong as looking like green enamel paint and smelling "pretty awful".
This is hardly a good sensory experience. It also prevents people being able to enjoy swimming in the lakes, and it's terrible news for the birds and fish that call these places home.
As reported on Sunday, Lake Tuggeranong recorded blue-green algae levels more than 100 times the recommended level for safe swimming in February.
The jewel in Canberra's crown, Lake Burley Griffin, had more than 13 times the amount of blue-green algae stipulated by guidelines.
These levels drop as the weather cools, but we can't afford to sit on our hands and make this a problem to be dealt with only in the warmer months.
Researchers and several companies are proposing solutions to treat our city's troubled lakes, and the $94 million ACT Healthy Waterways Project is already funding a University of Canberra team to test various technologies.
This is good news, but with the bulk of the funding set to dry up at the end of June, the ACT government must make it a priority in the next budget to fund programs on the back of researchers' findings, or tip in more money for research if the right solutions don't materialise before then.
As the cold weather arrives, Canberrans will be thinking longingly of summer days spent swimming at Casuarina Sands and Pine Island.
If money is spent wisely, we could make Lake Burley Griffin and Lake Tuggeranong just as appealing for a dip.
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