Another Chinese lake threatened by eutrophication

30 April 2012

The water quality in China’s Lake Tai is being impacted by agricultural fertilizers, this after a major effort to reduce chemical pollution in the country’s third largest lake.  China’s progress towards becoming the world’s new economic powerhouse has not been without cost, mostly massive environmental pollution.  This has the potential to stop their amazing progress dead in its tracks, or that of any other country not awake to the dangers.

"SOS Lake Tai" says this graffiti at the shore of the algae-infested lake in Jiangsu province. (Photo/CFP/WantChinaTimes)

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CyanoAlert odds and ends…

28 April 2012

Droplets will be terminating, hopefully temporarily, our CyanoAlert and WetlandNews sections in a month or so.  For the past three years we have funded this service ourselves but rising ‘news clip’ costs sent us seeking part-sponsorship for this public education service.  This has, regrettably, not been forthcoming.

In Queensland, Oz, the Gordonbrook Dam, has been closed due to an outbreak of toxic algae.  A bit further south, a shellfish warning has been issued for the south-eastern coastline of Tasmania. Read more »

European Union bans phosphorus in detergents

22 April 2012

For those EU countries who have not already remove phosphorus from their detergents, the writing is on the wall.

This week saw the publication of EU Regulation 259/2012, designed to lessen the impact of phosphorus loading on wastewater treatment works.  It is a well-structured document that all countries should adopt as a matter of some urgency.

For once I can say that South Africa is ahead of the curve on this issue!



Wisconsin not enforcing its obligations to reduce phosphorus

22 April 2012

”]Today is World Earth Day, probably yet another holiday, like many of the other environmental “days”, that has gone ignored by most.  Did you know its Earth Day today??  Be honest!  As observed in the Columbus Despatch,

Earth Days come and go, today being the 43rd anniversary of America’s semiofficial acknowledgement that life leans on nature and that self-interest demands humans not mess up a good thing.

 Wisconsin is the USA’s ‘lake state’.  They have thousands of them.  They also have thousands of dairy farms and other sources of pollution.  A couple of years back a decision was made to enforce limits on phosphorus getting into surface waters.  Recent reports indicate that only paltry attention has been paid to this urgent need [Source: Oshkosh Hub].

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South African industry drowning in ignorance about Water Crisis risks

17 April 2012

The recently-released Water Disclosure Report (I haven’t seen it yet so not sure how well its been disclosed to its intended audiences or if its one of those essential reports that you have to pay to read) indicates that [Source: Business Live]:

… 85% of water-intensive users among the JSE Top 100 companies are exposed to water-related risk, with 70% believing that risks to their direct operations could occur within the next five years. Read more »

Zandvlei fish kills: don’t ignore the algal wildcard

17 April 2012

Zandvlei near Cape Town, South Africa, is in the throes of an extended fish kill, to all intents quite a substantial event {see link}.  As with many, seemingly-inexplicable fish kill events, the cause is attributed to oxygen depletion – which can indeed cause fish kills.  However, in the shallow, windy environment of Zandvlei, dominated by pondweed as opposed to algae, nighttime oxygen levels should not drop so far as to cause a sustained fish kill.   Read more »

Does South Africa deserve its declining environmental quality?

16 April 2012

Droplets has been quiet for a few days, as some regulars have noticed.  I have been busy working through a batch of diatom samples collected from rivers across a single South African province.  The results have been quite unsettling, reflecting a much wider (geographic) level of water quality degradation that I had anticipated. Read more »

Municipalities ignore need to protect the health of the public and the environment

8 April 2012

In an earlier post, I quoted the following statement made by the World Health Organization:

The World Health Organization claims that 4,000 babies die every day as a result of poor water and sanitation. This blood is on the hands of those utilities who have failed to provide safe water and sanitation to their existing customers, or extend it to new ones.

Here’s something along these lines right here in South Africa (and don’t for a moment believe that it is an isolated issue):

In a report posted by the Deputy Shadow Minister of Water Affairs, Marti Wenger, it appears that, while some of this country’s infantile political morons are spending their salaries spewing vitriol over the use of the term ‘refugee’, real problems that affect the health of many are seemingly being ignored.  Here is the article [Source: DA Newsroom]:

Today, I visited the Tshing Community outside Ventersdorp to learn more about the water service delivery problems experienced in the area. Access to clean water is a constitutional right to be enjoyed by all South Africans. It is becoming increasingly clear that not all municipalities take this right seriously. 

This is the second in a series of visits to assess the quality of water service delivery across the country.

In a visit to Marquard in the Free State last week, I discovered that poor maintenance of water infrastructure has created a situation where water has to be bussed in from Clocqulan and people are queuing for up to three hours to fill up their containers. No progress has been made since the June 2011 Green Drop Report, which found that the waste water treatment plant in the municipality did not comply with basic requirements. The supervisor of the plant confirmed that nothing had been done since the report’s release.

Conditions are no better in Ventersdorp.

The Ventersdorp Water Services Development Plan (WSDP) compiled in March 2011 revealed that 18 households had no access to water at all, while 655 households (3,275 people) had no access to sanitation.

The 2011 Green Drop Report listed Ventersdorp as being 100% in the ‘critical risk’ category. Nine other towns in the province also fall into this category. The Green Drop assessment team observed that ‘the municipality was totally unprepared [for the visit] despite various notifications; the water services authority shows limited interest in – and knowledge of – their wastewater business’.  As in Marquard, the regulator found that these conditions pose a significant health and environmental risk. 

The concluding findings were that:
•    Not one of the Green Drop criteria or requirements was met during the assessment;
•    100% of all collection and treatment systems do not conform to their legal compliance or to standard norms and good practice; and
•    all aspects need to be addressed in a systematic, risk-based fashion to first achieve a minimal (basic) level of functionality, before moving wastewater business towards a more sustainable future.

Most of the recommendations of the 2011 Green Drop Report or comprehensive Ventersdorp WSDP have not been implemented. The only improvement is that the waste water treatment works are now monitoring and logging the flow of waste water.

In preparing for this visit, my phone call to the manager of the WSDP project revealed that he could not even provide a site address for the Ventersdorp Waste Water Treatment Works.
Sludge continues to be dumped at the waste water treatment site and sewerage has been flowing from the plant into the Tshing community for approximately two months. Nothing has been done about this.

There is no reliable access to water for members of the informal settlement opposite Tshing’s Extension 5.  The closest available tap is at the waste water treatment plant. Community members have to walk at least a kilometre to get there.

What we saw today indicates a growing trend of apparent disregard for the basic needs of ordinary South Africans. No progress is being made in realising progressive rights – like the right to water. This cannot be allowed to continue.

Is there proof for the perceived effect of Rietvlei’s water mixers?

8 April 2012

Rietvlei Dam (Pretoria, South Africa) (Photo: Bill Harding)

In recent weeks several articles have been published on the apparent beneficial effects of installing a particular make of water circulators in South Africa’s Rietvlei Dam, a very-polluted reservoir situated south-east of Pretoria.  Some of these articles, e.g. this link issued by the US Embassy, or placed in journals including that of a national research organization, suggest an endorsement of the technology – which is odd because such a step should only follow a process of exhaustive, rigorous research. Read more »

Water quality killing 4000 babies a day?

8 April 2012

It always rains at Easter…well it has again this year.  Here in the Western Cape (South Africa), we are enjoying a well-deserved very wet Easter, as wet as it used to be back in the 1980s when the farmers with their red cultivars still on the vine used to dread rains about now.  After a long dry period of many months, no-one can complain though.  Even the ultra-marathon runners had a cool outing yesterday in the Two Oceans.  Well done John and his Dad for those excellent times! Read more »