Sanity Prevails: Hartbeespoort Dam programme canned

31 March 2013

Diorama of Hartbeespoort Dam at the upper cableway station (Photo: Bill Harding)

Diorama of Hartbeespoort Dam at the upper cableway station, seen from the south (Photo: Bill Harding)

The decision by South Africa’s Department of Water Affairs to terminate the Metsiame project at Hartbeespoort Dam is long overdue but to be welcomed nonetheless.  Regrettably, this only comes after many millions of rands and years of valuable time have been wasted – money that could have been infinitely better spent on this and other impaired South African dams.  The mere fact that the work was allowed to continue in the face of conflicting scientific evidence was cause for concern and highlighted the lack of appropriate project oversight. Read more »

Dublin Council claims water safe to drink: but is it?

31 March 2013

Reported problems at Dublin’s Roundwood water treatment plant have limited supplies to the City – with cuts in supply of up to twelve hours.  Although algal complications are part of the problem (infrastructure breakages also implicated), the Council’s spokesperson maintains that the alga is ‘completely harmless’ – YET fails to make any mention of which alga it is.  Such reporting can only sow more doubt – do they know which algal species is involved, are they still trying to find out?  If indeed harmless, why not admit to the details?

In my opinion, water treatment plant managers should be completely open and honest about the problems they are experiencing and use these opportunities to educate the public about the problems they face. With respect to algal growth and eutrophication in water supplies, the public have a big role to play in reducing the problem.



Nutrient pollution threatens more than half of US rivers and streams

31 March 2013

Wastewater effluents destroy rivers and lakes (Photo: Bill Harding)

Wastewater effluents destroy rivers and lakes (Photo: Bill Harding)

A somewhat belated USEPA report warns that 55 percent of the USA’s rivers and streams are in a poor ecological state, with nutrient pollution (eutrophication) being implicated as a major cause.  Nutrients derived from inadequately-treated wastewater, urban runoff and/or agricultural drainage are the main sources of the problem.  Only 21% are deemed to be in “good” condition!

If you think the economy has taken a dive in recent years, take a gander at the closest stream running by your house. Chances are, it’s not in any better shape.

Read more »

The Democratic Alliance and the N1/N2 road upgrade project: has common sense left the building?

25 March 2013

This post has nothing at all to do with water issues.  It has to do with trying to understand the Democratic Alliance’s apparent blind opposition to getting our roads improved – seemingly for no better reason than to try and attract votes from an otherwise intransigent sector of the voting populace – namely the tolling opposition OUTA and Cosatu (fat chance with the latter).

The N2 from just west of Somerset West, to just east of Houwhoek above Bot River, is and has been grossly inadequate for decades now.  Quite apart from the long-standing impasse for the re-routing of the N2 through Somerset West, i.e. to get it off the “temporary” T2 alignment where it has been for more than 30 years, the road is a death trap and a horror to drive on during peak periods and bad weather.  The dangers are compounded by the general idiocy and skills-bereft abilities of South African drivers.  Yesterday midday, at the end of the long weekend, the road between Caledon and Somerset West was actually quite scary – and I did not observe a single traffic official during the time I was travelling.  The Easter Weekend looms and more people will die unnecessarily on this road. Read more »

Incentivise traffic policing: pay the fines to the traffic officers

10 March 2013

There are many things in South Africa that can be used as reasons to emigrate – and mindless, wilful ignorance of road rules is right up there near the top of the list.  South African roadusers are clearly just too stupid to realise how they are contributing to societal decay in this country.  On the other side of the coin, traffic policing is constrained by too few officers, poor salaries and so on.  We need lots of very competent, dedicated officers who are visible and mobile.  Here’s a way to do it.

Don’t pay traffic officers a salary – at least not at the beginning.  Rather reimburse them on a commission basis with a high percentage of any moving violation fines that they bring in.  Who cares if an officer becomes wealthy because he nails hundreds of dimwits running stop-signs and red lights…  This would encourage officers to be more obvious and maybe even work after five o’ clock (!) Traffic department funding, even after commissions, should skyrocket and provide more vehicles and equipment.

The obvious counter-argument is going to be “where will the money come from once this process takes effect and less offenders are caught?”  Well, given how bad things on our roads are now I don’t think that will be anytime soon but, yes, a long-term strategy will need to be in place.  One option is to progressively ramp  up the fines for serious violations (the stop signs, robots, overtaking in the safety shoulder, exceeding the speed limit in residential areas) to seriously high levels.  If roadusers don’t have the collective moral spine to drive properly, then the penalties must be extremely onerous.

Oh, well, this is all wishful thinking.  Our government has not shown that it can do anything effectively except collect taxes – but if their inability to create a safe and harmonious environment causes many more of the 1.5 million taxpayers – who are funding pretty much everything in this country for the other 48.5 million – to leave, then even the Revenue Office is going to be cerebrally challenged – and once the bills cannot be paid…



A Little P can cause Big Problems

1 March 2013

Herewith a few CyanoAlerts to start off March!

A newcomer to Droplets CyanoAlert is Ella Lake – which is in Northern Ontario, rural Canada, one of dozens of lakes just south of the Trans Canada Highway.  Ella has a reported blue-green algal bloom – despite having very low levels of phosphorus (see graphic below) – illustrating the important fact that a little nutrient enrichment can cause a big problem.  Such low levels of Phosphorus is the stuff of dreams for us here in South Africa! Read more »