Another big drought for the UK??

30 December 2011

Are we facing a drier future? (Photo: Bill Harding)

If the winter rains are not up to spec this year, the UK could be facing another big drought. Read more »

“Wetland in a Bag” concept launched!

30 December 2011

Ornamental floating islands

The invention of the BioHaven floating wetland concept (for more information please search this blog) has revolutionized the ability to create extremely-effective wetland functions in new or existing waterbodies.  DH Environmental, the South African distributor of Biohavens, has developed an allied-product that utilizes the plugs of island material which we remove when we create the planter holes – BioBag has arrived! Read more »

Blue-green algae may have inspired Hitchcock movie

29 December 2011

Naturally-occurring toxins, sparked by nutrients from leaking sewage, may have provided Alfred Hitchcock with the idea for his movie, The Birds.

Detroit Free Press reports that:

In a Hitchcock-style twist, therefore, leaky septic tanks installed amid a housing boom around Monterey Bay in the early 1960s perhaps led to the poisoned birds plummeting from the air in 1961. And they inspired a film that scared the bejabbers out of filmgoers worldwide two years later, one ranked among the American Film Institute’s Top 10 thrillers of the last century.

Call it the Case of the Poisoned Plankton. Looking at the stomach contents of turtles and seabirds gathered in 1961 Monterey Bay ship surveys, [Sibel] Bargu and colleagues have now found toxin-making algae were present in 79% of the plankton that the creatures ate. In particular, the team finds in the current Nature Geoscience journal that the leading toxin inside the plankton was a nerve-damaging acid, which causes confusion, seizures and death in birds.

“This is the most compelling evidence so far that there’s a direct link,” says University of Southern California plankton expert Raphael Kudela, not part of the study team. In a 2008 report Kudela and colleagues pointed to the toxic acid as the likely 1961 culprit and also first reported that septic tank leaks may have fed the toxic algae, rather than farm fertilizers long blamed.

Sibel Bargu is an Harmful Algal Blooms researcher with the Louisiana State University School of Coast and the Environment.

And you thought movie producers just dream this stuff up?

Tanzania concerned about human impact on lakes

29 December 2011

Microcystis, a genus of blue-green algae. Photo: Bill Harding

A study undertaken in Tanzania has provided some insight as to the impacts of humans on lake environments:

An increase in human activity is posing a threat to natural aquatic ecosystems in Tanzania and contributing to environmental damage and ecological changes. Doctoral research carried out by Hezron Emmanuel Nonga shows that agriculture and livestock farming leads to eutrophication in lakes and the proliferation of cyanobacteria which produce microcystins. New information about microcystins and other mycotoxins in Tanzanian lakes is useful for appraising the risk linked to drinking water and edible fish, which in turn affects the health of both humans and animals. Read more »

Did drinking water kill Lou Gehrig?

29 December 2011

Toxic blue-green algae (Anabaena solitaria) in Theewaterskloof Dam (Villiersdorp, South Africa): Photo: Bill Harding

A controversial news headline – one that appears in the January 2012 issue of Miller-McCunes publication.  It relates to the possibility that a toxin, produced by all types of blue-green algae, may be a factor in neurodegenerative disease (ALS, Parkinsons and Alzheimers) (see Droplets post of several months back here). Read more »

Water Crisis education issues for 2012

29 December 2011

Winds of Change: south-easter over the Helderberg (Photo: Bill Harding)

The true meaning of the Water Crisis in South Africa creeps ever closer – almost completely unnoticed by the press and, mostly, wilfully ignored by the authorities.  Most “users” of water remain oblivious to avoidable issues of contamination that may already be affecting their long-term health prospects.  They are more than happy to just have water coming out of their taps – few wonder about what may be in it! Read more »

Chemicals threaten Michigan Lake

27 December 2011

Barton Pond (Ann Arbor, Michigan) is in the news again:

The Michigan Fish Advisory warns people against eating large amounts of certain fish from bodies of water, including two in Washtenaw County. Read more »

Guns drawn over the San Juan River

24 December 2011

Who said conflicts won’t arise over water issues?  Nicaragua has filed suit at the UN World Court to stop Costa Rica building a riverside road.  Article here.



Lake of Legend to be Rehabilitated

24 December 2011

Lake Minnehaha has a plan for a fix-up:

The waters of Lake Minnehaha, at 6.5 surface acres in the middle of the park, are stagnant. There isn’t enough movement and so it provides a perfect habitat for blue-green algae. In hot weather, it dies and produces the putrid smell.

This particular algal species can at times be toxic, killing dogs that drink it or sickening people coming in contact with it. It spreads on the water surface and blocks sunlight that would otherwise encourage growth of healthy organisms. Storm water runoff brings in more gunk and debris. Read more »

Blue-green algae continue to plague recreation in New Zealand

22 December 2011

In Wellington, the Horizon’s Council is warning swimmers to be careful: Read more »