DH Environmental’s contributions to WRC-funded science

2 September 2011

Sundowners in the Kruger Park (Photo: Linda Harding)

This week the Water Research Commission (WRC) is celebrating 40 years of existence. Since the meeting started [I did not attend], I have had – and continue to receive – several queries as to why none of the WRC projects that I have undertaken were showcased, or why I was not invited to speak on all or any of them. I guess the best place for the answer would be to ask the WRC themselves – I have my suspicions, but there it is.

Over the past eight years I have concentrated on applied science research and development, intended to provide vital answers to guide and underpin remedial or preventative interventions.  Additionally, I have coupled to this SMART monitoring protocols that provide comprehensive and essential information – at a high level of confidence and interpretive resolution.  As such, none of this work is “luxury research”, neither does it focus on the symptoms of water quality abuse, rather the causes.  It has all been achieved with an absolute minimum of funding.

For those who are interested, here is a list of the work I have contributed since 2004:

Eutrophication and reservoir management issues

  • The Nutrient Enrichment Assessment Protocol (NEAP), an internet-based, simple modelling tool that provides multi-directional assessments of nutrient loading or attenuation responses in South African dams.  This tool was included in the Guide to Catchment-Scale Eutrophication Assessments;
  • A Best Management Practice ‘targeted selection tool’ to guide decision making for reservoir-lake restoration.  Developed for the DWA but never used by them.  Incorporated into later versions of NEAP;
  • The Mean Annual Phosphorus Loading Project (WRC/1687), which assessed the phosphorus reductions required for South Africa’s most problematical dams;
  • An assessment of the composition of the fish in some hypertrophic South African dams, with a view towards biomanipulation (WRC 1643/1/10 – has been published but not on their website as yet).

NEAP was developed back in 2004 as an aide for assessing eutrophication

Backbone for NEAP V1.0


  • This work encompassed three phases, an exploration of the value and opportunities, the development of a toolkit for sampling, sample processing and taxonomic identification and the development of the South African Diatom Index, a phase which included the taxonomic work being made available internationally (see here for the Diatom Identification Key for South African Rivers, V2.0);
  • In addition to the index for rivers, in a separate project we have also produced a preliminary Wetland Index as well;
  • This was an extremely exciting period of work, producing possibly the most valuable aquatic biomonitoring tool available for South Africa; regrettably funding was terminated before the crucial, regional endemics work could be tackled;
  • The various reports are available off the DHEC or WRC websites.

Reports from Phase 2 of the Diatom Assessment Protocol

Taxonomic key to the South African Diatoms


  • I have been at the forefront of cyanobacterial investigations in South Africa since 1992.  During this time the following reports (see DHEC website) have been produced:
  • The history of blue-green algae and related science in South Africa (WRC TT153, 2000) [I have an idea that this one is out of print];
  • A Research Strategy for the Detection and Management of Algal Toxins in Water Sources (Harding, WR: 2006) (also Part 2, 2009, not yet published by the Commission);
  • CYANONET: A Global Network for Cyanobacterial Bloom and Toxin Risk Management (Codd, G; Azevedo, S; Bagchi, S; Burch, M; Carmichael, W; Harding, W; Kaya, K and H Utkilen, 2005). UNESCO IHP-VI. Technical Documents in Hydrology 76;
  • Current Approaches to Cyanotoxin Risk Assessment, Risk Management and Regulations in Different Countries (Chapter contribution, Harding W and P Kempster: 2005) Umwelt Bundes Amt, Berlin (Updated 2011, Harding WR);
  • The International Manual for Cyanobacteria, arising out of my representing the WRC at the Global Water Research Coalition (GWRC) and the project planning workshop hosted here in Somerset West.  I contributed Chapter 2 to this document;
  • Promotion of the need to develop an understanding of the ubiquity and threat posed by beta-methyl-amino-alanine in South African waters.  This resulted in funding being channelled to NMMU (Cyanobacterial Research Group) and the development of an extremely-sensitive analytical method for this toxin;
  • Various other papers and publications as provided on my website.

CYANONET National Representatives, Dundee, Scotland (2004)

GWRC Toxic Algal Task Team, Adelaide, Australia (2004)

International cyanobacterial manual authors and project team, Somerset West, 2007


Report for Phase 1 of the Cyanobacterial Research Strategy

Stable Isotope Analysis (SIA) for aquatic foodwebs

  • I pioneered the recent introduction of SIA for foodweb forensics in rivers and dams – a sensitive and truly-integrated assessment protocol that integrates landscape elements;
  • Thusfar, together with my good friend Rob Hart, we have completed two projects, one in the Kruger Park and in Mozambique and the other on Rietvlei Dam near Pretoria.

SIA tells us who eats who and who eats where!

Minaturized data measurement and logging

  • Together with NetEnabled, we have designed, manufactured and successfully tested cheap, programmable, match-box size data loggers, for water temperature and electrical conductivity.

Minaturized, programmable temperature data logger


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