The silent P in detergent

16 December 2010

Phosphorus (element P in the Periodic Table) is the principal element driving the degradation of surface waters worldwide, not least in South Africa, via the process known as eutrophication. This is a BIG problem in South Africa but, because there is almost nil pro active attention to this long-standing problem, we simply have to sit by and watch our dams deteriorate. Think Rietvlei, Roodeplaat, Hartbeespoort, Bloemhof and Bon Accord Dams – just a few examples.

Algae thrive on phosphorus!

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CyanoAlert

16 December 2010

Today is a rare day – a CyanoAlert from South Africa – and Cape Town no less! Wildevoelvlei is an old offender – the vlei being little more than a maturation pond for the adjacent wastewater treatment works. Readers may recall the use of salt dosing to alter the conditions in this vlei a decade ago – a temporary intervention that was supposed to be followed up with a more permanent solution, but never was.

Salt dosing of Wildevoelvlei (1998)

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CyanoAlert Update

14 December 2010

Here’s an early seasonal warning from Australia (Victoria), plus yet another enactment of legislation from the USA aimed at reducing nutrients that drive eutrophication.

CyanoAlert

14 December 2010

For a couple of years I have been tracking, on a daily basis, articles concerning cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) that are published in daily news media. This assessment has enabled me to understand the level of understanding, amongst the general public, of the nature of the cause of problematical cyanobacterial growths (blooms), viz. eutrophication, as well as of the toxins produced by the cyanobacteria themselves.

Along with this new blog, I have decided to share this information here, rather than email links to an interest group. South Africa is far behind the global curve on accepting, understanding and living with the consequences of eutrophication, one such consequence being the threats to human and animal health posed by cyanobacteria. It is hoped that this blog will serve as a medium of education for South Africans.

Here goes with the first rendition:

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The dangers of bounded rationality

14 December 2010

I was recently invited to compile and edit a series of articles for the latest edition of the Water Resource Handbook. I have formed the forthcoming edition around the issue of eutrophication, South African dams and the Water Crisis.

Possibly the most exciting chapter in this book is that written by Mark Dent, author of the CMA Leadership Letter. In this chapter he introduces the concept of ‘bounded rationality’ i.e. the degree to which each of us sees our situation within our own, individual, blinkered reality. Bounded rationality is a major problem in South Africa, not least in the water sector – where inexperienced managers and administrators cannot see the wood for the trees and cannot make informed decisions outside of their own boundaries. More and more we see administrators trying to manage – and evaluate – science – with disastrous effects. The problem is exacerbated by ‘management by individuals’, rather than by committees of specialists. Our society has, increasingly, become managed by individuals who push their own ideas until they (the manager) get replaced, and then the cycle repeats itself.

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The South African Diatom Collection

14 December 2010

I have included this summary of the SANDI prepared by Jonathan Taylor and myself:

The SA National Diatom Collection has recently changed ownership and location, has been augmented with several thousand samples and is accessible to researchers. The SANDC has its origins chiefly through the work of the eminent Hungarian diatomist Béla Cholnoky. Cholnoky commenced his work in the early 1950s, first at the University of Pretoria and subsequently at the CSIR (Pretoria) where he worked until his death in 1972. He published 38 articles, in which he described many hundreds of new taxa and a book dealing with the taxonomy and ecology of the diatoms of southern and central Africa. His slides, much of his original raw material and his library were, until recently housed in disuse at the CSIR in Durban.

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Demise of the Diatom Project

11 December 2010

The recent return of diatoms (silicaceous algae) to biomonitoring in South Africa has been one of the most exciting developments for many years.  Diatoms, unlike any other biotic indicator, are not affected by issues of habitat, flow rate, seasonality and the like.  They provide a very accurate reflection of water quality, integrated over several weeks, in fact as much as 70% of the water quality condition is represented by diatom assemblages.  As many users of this approach have discovered, diatoms provide a level of diagnostic sensitivity not otherwise available.  They are also especially useful in the forensic analysis of climate change impacts.

Cymbella kappii

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Welcome

7 December 2010

Welcome to the weblog of DH Environmental Consulting where we will be posting general articles of interest regarding the environment and freshwater ecosystems in South Africa. We will also be maintaining Cyano Alert, a database of potentially hazardous and toxic cyanobacteria outbreaks.

More information about our company, the services we provide and our personnel is available on our main website. If you have any questions or have something to tell us, please contact us.