25 May 2011

Three dogs have died in Holland (Flevoland Province) after coming into contact with blue-green algae.  As a consequence, beaches in several provinces have been closed. Cyanobacterial blooms are very common in the many shallow Dutch polder lakes and cause massive economic disruption during the warm season.

Lake Attitash (Maryland) is about to have the equivalent of R700000 spent on it to get it reasonably useable for the coming recreational season, while health officials in Oregon continue to warn about toxic algal blooms.   While it gets colder in South Africa, warm temperatures in Gainesville (Texas) have caused a fish kill in Bivens Arm Lake, a waterbody prone to algal blooms.  Fountain Lake (Rio Verde) is soon to benefit from a full-on lake management plan and the appointment of a lake expert.  There is only one (yes, 1, no zeroes dropped off) certified lake manager in the whole of South Africa!

Wisconsin (where the cheese comes from) has 15 081 lakes (give or take a couple).  They also take their lakes very seriously as “Our lakes are one of our greatest natural resources here in Wisconsin, but there are already 126 lakes classified as “impaired” due to algae blooms and excessive weeds – a common result of high phosphorous runoff,” concluded von Huene. “How many more week-choked lakes and dangerous algae blooms are we willing to accept?”  South Africa has 580-odd dams (= lakes), which we don’t take very seriously at all (although many would like to – as we are utterly dependent on them.

In India, water hyacinth (a proclaimed noxious weed in South Africa) is causing massive problems in Lake Ulsoor, which is polluted with sewage.

Phosphorus more valuable than oil?  Well, yes says the publication OilPrice, quote: “It’s phosphorus.  The element of great importance – its essential for life – humans and animals need it for healthy bone formation, and plants need it to grow.  Without it for fertilization of food crops, the supplies will drop over a few years much further than markets can adapt.  Some people will fall into malnutrition, starvation and the other grim realities of not enough food to go around -that’s not even to consider fuel crops.  Food vs. fuel and the ethanol debates pale to insignificance when compared to the phosphorus matter” . Time to stop dumping it in our dams then?? The article continues “Ostara, using technology licensed from the University of British Columbia, has figured out how to economically extract phosphorus, ammonia and magnesium from the sludgy liquids in municipal waste water. Then it turns these nutrients into a pure, slow-release compound that can be used as and blended with commercial fertilizer products. It calls the pelletized compound Crystal Green“.  These are people our Minister of Science should be talking to (see below). “The process is most efficient at removing phosphorus from the waste stream. About 85 per cent is extracted and recycled as fertilizer. At the same time, the process dramatically reduces the amount of phosphates and ammonia that makes it into rivers and lakes.  Phosphorus runoff will cause algae blooms, microorganism growth explosions and other plant growth in lakes that can kill fish and make the water unfit for use“.

On the home front, our Minister of Science and Technology has stated that more funding is needed and that there are opportunities for  nationally-driven science in South Africa (which is what we had up until the late 1980s).  This is excellent news but our Minister needs to ensure that funding is allocated to real needs, with associated career paths.   Also announced is that “Dr. Ejeta [one of Obama’s science envoys] will [visit SA and] identify areas for cooperation on agricultural biotechnology, food security, public-private partnerships, capacity building, and science education, through his meetings with senior government officials, ministers, and representatives from the scientific, education, nonprofit, and business communities”. Also all good but I hope he talks to the right people as we need to beware the continued advice of those who brought us to where we are today.

Finland has a very efficient environment department – which, with the help of the Finnish Environment Agency, maintains the Environment Finland website.  Finland has been working to reduce surface water eutrophication since the 1970s and has been very successful.

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