27 January 2011

The European Commission is referring Greece to the European Court of Justice for its failure to protect Lake Koroneia, an internationally important wetland in the region of Thessaloniki.  There are a number of legal challenges against pollution of lakes and waterways, some meeting vicious resistance from the authorities.  While some countries (e.g. Finland) are calling on their political leaders to apply their minds to balancing conservation of resources, particularly water, with economic development, others are fighting attempts to reduce restrictions on fertilizer use.

The debate on P-removal from detergents is taking a new turn as efforts are now being made in Utah to repeal the removal from dishwasher formulations (see elsewhere on this blog). It is being argued, correctly, that wastewater treatment plants can remove phosphorus. What is not argued is (a) whether they can remove enough to offset environmental problems and (b) whether the removal of P in detergents would not make the work of the treatment plant a lot easier.  Narrow-minded, ill-informed responses to consumer issues are not what the politicians should be supporting!

Toxic algae advisories have been issued for Lake Eppalock (Australia), St Mary Lake (Canada) and a debate, as a form of public education, is being opened around the impacts of phosphorus levels in Lake Menomin/Tainter (Wisconsin, USA).


26 January 2011

The Democratic Alliance has issued a “to-do” list for our new Minister of Water Affairs. Insofar as protecting our dams is concerned, the list includes doing something about the massive level of pollution caused by ineffective wastewater treatment works and the need to manage the ecological integrity of our dams correctly.  The list also calls for an investigation into what is being done and how money is being spent on the so-called “rehabilitation of Hartbeespoort Dam”.  This is long overdue!

Elsewhere in this blog is a discussion on the problems associated with removing phosphates from dishwasher detergents.  One of the world giants in the detergent industry, Procter and Gamble, have announced that they are reformulating their P-free product.

In Australia, authorties have warned that the levels of toxic algae in Lake Eildon, while in New Zealand the warning for Lake Forsyth/Waiwera has been lifted.

In the USA, the EPA has retracted its approval of the TMDL for Lake Champlain and has announced it will assist with reformulating this directive.

Diatoms for Water Resource Management: USA

26 January 2011

Trybionella littoralis (Riversdale, Bill Harding)

“Diatoms are algae that reflect the biotic condition of streams, lakes and estuaries. Diatoms are important indicator organisms because they are sensitive to natural and human impacts, and monitoring their condition provides information about ecosystem health. Together with aquatic invertebrates and fish, diatoms are included in federal and state monitoring and assessment programs as key indicators of biotic condition” – so says, quite correctly, the USGS.

The USA’s first on-line diatom guide has been released.  Diatoms are being used with increasing rapidity and scope in the United States and elsewhere in the world.  The cosmopolitan value of this indicator type make this online key immediately valuable around the world!

South Africa’s own on-line resource (a software resource has been available for some years already) will be available by March 2011.


24 January 2011

Tales of woe coming from Lake Attitash (Amesbury, Massacheusetts, USA) – where invasive aquatic weeds and cyanobacteria are causing problems – mainly the plants at the moment.  Regrettably those involved see the two problems as separate issues, whereas in truth they are intrinsically-linked.  Managing them separately will simply make the problems worse!

There is lots of debate about how to attenuate nutrients and which to focus on – Lake Winnipeg is a prime example.  This is worrying as now is not the time to debate what causes eutrophication – but of course the costs of removing nutrients and fixing lakes are causing the authorities to duck and dive, to the eventual cost of the environment and society!  This particular debate is about whether nitrogen or phosphorus should be removed – which is odd for Canada since the findings of the Lake 227 debacle!

“After completing one of the longest running experiments ever done on a lake, researchers from the University of Alberta, University of Minnesota andthe Freshwater Institute, contend that nitrogen control, in which the European Union and many other jurisdictions around the world are investing millions of dollars, is not effective and in fact, may actually increase the problem of cultural eutrophication.

Read more »


20 January 2011

A blue-green algal health advisory that has been in effect at Fairview Lake,  Portland (Oregon, USA), since July 2010 has just been lifted!  More phosphorus bans are being initiated, with Ramsey Lake (Sudbury) being the latest on the list.  Information webinars are becoming more popular in the US, with one on reducing agricultural pollution scheduled for January 29th. Iowa has reported that the number of polluted waterways in the state has reached 570, the highest in 14 years.

In New Zealand, warnings have been issued for the Ashley River (Canterbury), while cyanobacteria are causing problems in the Tararua District – where water restrictions now affect much of the lower North Island.

Water quality issues get the nod, sort of

19 January 2011

A very positive sign for water resource management is contained in a statement by the Minister of Water Affairs and Environment, contained in the January 2011 edition of the IMIESA journal. Less heartening, however, is that the statement was submitted by the previous minister -since replaced by Minister Edna Molewa!  IMIESA ???

In the article the Minister acknowledges that water quantity and water quality are inextricably linked.  This is a rare admission but it does show that people are starting to listen to the appeals for attention to issues of quality (see elsewhere on this blog).

While not going on to specifically address water quality, the article points out that there needs to be a greater public awareness around the profile of water and that there needs to be better management (protection) of water resources in terms of controlling pollution at source.  The article emphasizes that there will be an increasing need, accelerated by climate change, to focus on adaptation (to reduced water availability), as opposed to mitigation.  She did not point out that it is impossible to adapt to poor water quality ands that degraded water quality, in effect, reduces the available quantity still further.  Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink!

I cannot presume to understand the intricacies of national and provincial management, so I cannot comment on the stated need for political representation at provincial level in order to give effect to water resource management.  My take on this is that we now, more than ever, need a professional civil service that is minimally buffeted by political interference.  Let those who can, do!


15 January 2011

A report from Ohio informs us that thirty-two percent of the farms in the Grand Lake watershed now have nutrient management plans in place!  Wow!  These have been put in place extremely quickly and shows what can be done when there is a will to turn things around.  The TMDL process for Little Rock Lake (Minnesota) is well advanced in terms of getting started with their fifty-five percent reduction in P-loading.  Texas Authorities report tastes and odours for Benbrook Lake.  Lake Champlain is also receiving attention – with a renewed plan to continue the work that has already seen USD 100 million invested in reducing nutrient loading to the lake (see also this link), as are Harveys Lake and White Lake.

In New Zealand, Phorimidium-problems in the Opuha Dam are causing the fishermen to start muttering.

What is apparent from many of these stories is that the recovery from eutrophication takes much much longer than it took to get that way in the first place.  Accordingly, the sooner a start is made, even a small start, to set things right, the better.

The positive side of big floods

13 January 2011

While big floods are devastating to man and property, they encompass all sorts of ecological benefits.  As with other natural disasters (disasters in human terms, long-term cyclical events in nature), massive floods bring about a “reset” in the status quo insofar as the dispersal of organisms are concerned.

Floods allow otherwise isolated aquatic fauna to be relocated to new habitat, in the processing not only “restocking” but also introducing new genetic material into stagnant gene pools.  There are, of course, some downsides, as the same applies to introduced species of fish and other fauna, which will now be even more widely distributed than they were before.


13 January 2011

Next week cyanobacteria become the focus of a movie!  It’s called Bloom – The Plight of Lake Champlain.  This is something of a first and illustrative of widening public interest in doing something about the problem of eutrophication.

In the USA, the New Jersey fertilizer ban has been signed into law.

Apparently the Kowie River estuary (Port Alfred) has had a sewage problem for some time, such that sporting events have moved elsewhere.  Peter Britz (Rhodes) has cited the common problem, collapse of infrastructure and services.

A toxic algal alert has been issued for Burrinjuck Dam (Murrumbidgee River, Australia). Burrinjuck is a bit south of the wet bit in Australia.


12 January 2011

Health warnings have been issued for an Anabaena bloom in  Lake Forsyth (Wairewa) in New Zealand and Pykes Creek Dam in Victoria (Australia).  Lake Ohakuri, the largest lake in the Waikato River system, has reported a toxic algal bloom.

Something of  a first, a report from the Caribbean – where an algal bloom has been reported in the Great Salt Lake pond.