A Water Quality Wish for 2013

31 December 2012

Moonrise this evening over South Africa’s Riviersonderend (River without End) mountains – and the last night of 2012! (Photo: Bill Harding)

Events of the last few days have precluded me from summarising the articles and issues covered by Droplets during 2012.  What is clear, however, is that the quality of water in all spheres of water use (environment, potable, industrial and agriculture) remains an issue that is yet to be fully appreciated.  Lots more water will flow under the proverbial bridge before this happens – but progress is being made. Read more »

Happy New Year to All

30 December 2012

Happy New Year guys – even those who think caring for dogs is not “African” !

Water quality can be sickening

28 December 2012

One of the pervasive water quality themes apparent from the news media during 2012 has been the increasing awareness of the economic losses associated with polluted rivers and lakes.  In the developed world, this aspect continues to override public concerns about health-related water quality issues, an aspect more obvious in the daily lives of those for whom simply sourcing water is a struggle.  These worlds are poles apart, despite the technological advances and abilities of modern water treatment engineering. Read more »

Beware water quality ‘fix’ claims that may be blowing smoke

22 December 2012



Some will claim that their products provide benefits as obvious as those of the steam engine  (Photo Credit: Rob Hart)

To the best of my recollection, bioaugmentation “remedies” made their debut during the late 1980s. These packets of powder or bottles of mysterious liquid mainly targeted the wastewater treatment market.  In many cases wonderful claims abounded, including the ability to convert matter into just about nothing at all.  Microbiologists tended to look somewhat sceptically at the need to add mixtures of freeze-dried bacteria to environments in which naturally occurring bacteria did just that, occur naturally.  Some purveyors of these products, many without any relevant scientific experience or training, have shown both then and now that they are not going to let a little awkward science get in the way of making a fast buck.  Selling their product to consumers less informed than themselves is all they need to achieve. Read more »

Water quality topics we should talk about, but don’t

18 December 2012

One of the top 10 news stories about water during 2012 was the one that entitled “Could tap water cause Lou Gehrig’s Disease” (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, ALS, an incurable neurodegenerative ailment). While the jury is still out on this one, and may be so for a while yet, nothing gets readers more stirred up than the possibility that your tap water could kill you – and in a not very nice way. Read more »

Algal blooms hotting up down south

18 December 2012

And you thought that Spielberg character made up aliens that look like me? (Empusa guttula, female. Photo: Bill Harding)

Things are hotting up down here in the Southern Hemisphere and through the heat haze from my veranda I am kept awake by the regular fall of over-ripe plums from a tree that has become a veritable wildlife sanctuary for all sorts of birds, bees, beetles and the handsome guy in the picture above, well he was just passing through!

The increasing seasonal heat is closely associated with the increased number of algal bloom reports. Read more »

DH Environmental contracted to assess value of TMDL approach for managing South African catchments

14 December 2012

DH Environmental Consulting has been awarded a two-year Water Research Commission contract to assess the value of the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) approach for use in South Africa.  TMDLs are written plans or protocols which may be employed to address the management of any aspect of water quality but, in particular, they are mostly used for setting achievable goals for attenuating nutrient pollution.  The ‘daily load’ aspect addresses variations in loading resulting from individual pollution practices and the related hydrological characteristics.  TMDLs are also applied, for example, to specific toxicants or for maintaining levels of dissolved oxygen necessary to sustain aquaculture operations. Read more »

Does pollution trading open a loophole for pollution dodging?

14 December 2012

We hear a lot these days about carbon credits and carbon trading – basically a financially-linked means of balancing carbon emissions between big and small polluters.  While sound in theory, to a degree, the approach is open to wealthy, big polluters being able to dodge having to make any real changes to their total emissions.  Similar approaches have recently been mooted for nutrient pollution, both for nitrogen which principally impacts on the marine environment (bay and coastal discharges) and phosphorus, the big culprit in the freshwater realm. Read more »

Not much P needed to foul up a river

6 December 2012

Research has shown that the ecological functioning of streams starts to occur when the level of dissolved phosphorus in the water starts to exceed 20 microgrammes per liter.  This is a very low level and approximate the concentration present in rainfall in many areas.  A just-published study by the US Geological Society (USGS) has shown that the impacts of urban development on streams occurs very early on.

The loss of sensitive species in streams begins to occur at the initial stages of urban development, according to a new study by the USGS. The study found that streams are more sensitive to development than previously understood.  Contaminants, habitat destruction, and increasing streamflow flashiness resulting from urban development can degrade stream ecosystems and cause degradation downstream with adverse effects on biological communities and on economically valuable resources, such as fisheries and tourism.  For example, by the time urban development had approached 20 percent in watersheds in the New England area, the aquatic invertebrate community had undergone a change in species composition of about 25 percent. Read more »

Efforts to save the Experimental Lakes Area continue

5 December 2012

Droplets readers will recall the decision by the Canadian Government to close the so-called Experimental Lakes Area, in effect a massive field laboratory that has generated a wealth of limnological information.  Subsequent reports suggested that the authorities were considering selling-off the ELA to a private funder for a nominal ‘dollar’ fee.

Described as the super collider of ecology, the ELA is the only facility in the world that allows the study of whole lake ecosystem research and has produced almost 750 peer-reviewed papers including 19 in Science and Nature. Read more »