Gazing into the Crystal Ball – South Africa’s Future Challenges to Water Quality

29 June 2012

Anthony Turton

This is an invited viewpoint by Dr Tony Turton of the Water Stewardship Foundation Trust.  The article contextualizes many of the points made in this blog regarding the issue of water quality in relation to the Water Crisis: Read more »

Lake Champlain starts volunteer monitoring programme

23 June 2012

One of the biggest problems constraining dealing with water quality issues is the general lack of understanding about the problem.  Many people have, for example, heard about eutrophication, but only have a very limited knowledge of the causes and effects.  In South Africa we have a cyclical problem in that, because the need to address eutrophication has been ignored for so long, even those tasked with doing something about it have virtually no practical experience of the problems and their origins.  This, invariably, results in a cycle of studies to try and define an already well-defined problem, with equally well-defined solutions.

We don’t need to know more about the problem, we need to do something about it.  In order to do this properly, the associated levels of awareness and education need to be raised – across a range of strata from national regulator staffers to the man in the street.  As I have said, often, sleeves need to be rolled up and problems addressed, not merely described in different terms again and again. Read more »

Rio+20 puts the poo back in pollution

21 June 2012

Right now, tens of thousands of  delegates from almost 200 countries have settled into Rio for yet another expensive jaunt that may well not produce much at all.  Just after Rio 1992, one of the world’s most prominent ecologists, Jon Cairns Jnr, observed:

The June 1992 Rio conference on environmental problems (while gratifying in that world leaders were paying collective attention for the first time on environmental problems) was disturbing in that no substantive program of action to arrest or reverse deleterious environmental trends was put in place.  While much attention was given to policy at the Rio conference, few policies issued were resolved; even if they had been resolved, they would have had little effect on human actions.

So, all that we can say with confidence is that not much has changed in 20 years and probably this holiday event will produce more of the same.  South Africa’s The Star reports that anticipations for meaningful progress are poor. Read more »

Diatom-based water quality monitoring in South-Africa. A state of the art technique in stasis.

20 June 2012

Dr Jonathan Taylor

This is an invited article prepared by Dr Jonathan Taylor, a member of the Diatom Assessment Protocol research team and Curator of the South African Diatom Collection. Read more »

Check My Lake site launched

19 June 2012

Huge strides are being made in Oklahoma insofar as public awareness of lake problems is concerned.  A recent innovation has been the launch of the “CheckmyOKlake” website – which allows Oklahomians to assess whether there are any algal problems before heading out for the weekend.  Well done!

An example from the CheckMyOKlake website.

World’s largest floating island being assembled

19 June 2012

Work on assembling and planting what is believed will be the world’s largest man-made floating wetland is underway in Rotorua [New Zealand].

Twenty thousand native plants on the Rotorua District Council-coordinated environmental enhancement initiative will help improve Lake Rotorua water quality while promoting the district with the word ‘Rotorua’ spelled out in giant letters floating on the lake.

After several months of constructing the floating wetland framework contractors commenced assembly of the structure at Sulphur Point alongside Lake Rotorua last week.

When completed the 5,000 square metre floating wetland will be anchored in Lake Rotorua off-shore from Rotorua International Airport. At 160 metres in length by 40 metres wide the wetland will be similar in size to a full rugby field.

A total of 76 modules have been assembled to complete the first section which forms the letter ‘A’, with another six sections yet to be built. The seven sections will then be fastened together in their final form shaping the word ‘Rotorua’. Planting is being carried out as each section is completed with assembly and planting expected to be finished by the end of July.

The $900,000 environmental initiative is a partnership of Rotorua District Council, Bay of Plenty Regional Council and Te Arawa Lakes Trust. The Bay of Plenty Regional Council is putting in $225,000 with an additional $225,000 funding from the Crown via the Rotorua Lakes Funding Deed. Rotorua District Council’s investment in the project is $450,000.

[Source: XTRA News]

Blue-green algae toxicity more serious during drought

18 June 2012

Following on the recent post on livestock deaths due to blue-green algae, here is a useful article on the increased risks that arise during times of drought or when animals are restricted to limited, poorly-managed sources of water [Source: Tri-State Livestock News]:

In areas of drought stricken prairie, livestock producers should be vigilant about water testing and visually checking ponds and dams for the presence of blue-green algae. The algae, also called Cyanobacteria, is fatal to livestock.

“Many times, the first sign of trouble is a trail of dead sheep leading away from the dam,” said Dave Ollila, extension sheep field specialist with South Dakota State University. “The poison strikes them so quickly, they will die as they are walking away from the dam.” Read more »

Anderson Lake algal toxin levels 500-times over the limit

18 June 2012

The concentration of blue-green algal nerve toxins (anatoxin)  in Anderson Lake, Washington State, have leapt to 500x more than the level at which warnings are posted! Water in the lake also contains liver toxins, but too low to warrant concern right now.  The neurotoxin levels are scary enough! Read more »

Toxic algae cause cattle deaths in Kansas

17 June 2012

During the 1990s, toxic algae killed hundreds of cattle in South Africa (Photo: Bill Harding)

A report accessed recently has linked the recent (May) deaths of 22 cattle, on a farm in Marion County, Kansas, to toxic algae in a pond.  Regrettably the dead animals were found (!) too late to support any decent forensics to establish cause and effect.  This incident reminds me of one I worked on back in the 1990s, in which 400-odd animals died within a few days – this being South Africa’s single biggest incident of stock animal death that has been documented.  The press report is worth reading as it illustrates some of the problems surrounding the need for rapid problem identification. Read more »

Algal wake-up call for New York State

11 June 2012

Readers ask why CyanoAlert features so many reports from the US?  The answer is quite simple – it’s because that is where all the reports, in the main, are coming from right now. Our news clipping service focusses on the entire globes news on a twice-daily basis, so we don’t discriminate!  Currently, the UK, USA, Australia and New Zealand have the highest level of public consciousness regarding blue-green algae and the threats they pose to water quality and human or animal health.  Other countries, such as the one I live in, have only a rudimentary public understanding and no regulatory mechanisms for reporting or issuing warnings.  So, Droplets uses the countries that do to provide examples for the countries that do not.

In terms of protecting human health, it is arguably criminal for any authority to not report on the presence of potentially-toxic algae. Read more »