RIP Sarel Pieterse

15 September 2014

Sarel Pieterse

Sarel Pieterse

Today Droplets mourns the loss of a former long-time colleague and friend, Sarel Pieterse – Chief Water Chemist at the City of Cape Town’s Scientific Services Directorate.  Sarel was one of those rare people who always had time to assist others and share his knowledge, no matter how busy he was – all the while displaying a subtle and infectious sense of humour.  His passing is utterly premature and South Africa’s water management fraternity is indeed much poorer for his having left it.

Rest in Peace Sarel.

South Africa’s Water Minister proposes a bottom-up solution

15 September 2014

South Africa has a water crisis which, to all intents and purposes, is not receiving the attention that it should.  Nonetheless, the newly-elected Minister of Water and Sanitation (in the not so old days, Water Affairs), Nomvula Mokonyane, has chosen to throw in her lot with this country’s embattled President – generating the headline “Use buttocks to defend Zuma“.

Surely, surely, we deserve better than this?  This particular ministry does not have the time for anything other than ‘water affairs’ – unless the President’s ‘fire pool’ now needs solar heating?  Or is this some form of ‘payback’ for the appointment?  Let me be quite clear here: it’s not about what the Minister said or how idiomatic the expression might be – it’s about sycophantic politicking by the head of what should be one of the most important departments in this country – yet just on a year ago was rated the second worst performing of all South African government departments.  In this same week the Institute of Security Studies has concluded what many already know, namely “South Africa is facing a potential water crisis and the current policies of the newly named Department of Water and Sanitation are not sufficient to address this problem”. 

As such, the Minister has more important things to be concerned about – or so one would think…



The shortsightedness of using grass carp as a lake management tool

4 September 2014

Pondweeds are a vital part of healthy aquatic environments (Photo: Bill Harding)

Pondweeds are a vital part of healthy aquatic environments (Photo: Bill Harding)

In nearly thirty years of working in the field of aquatic ecosystems, I have yet to see a single example of using grass carp as a means to ‘control’ aquatic plants actually being successful.  I was asked about this again this week and thought it best to lay out a few facts here:

For some reason or other, people who live around lakes and ornamental ponds don’t want to see any plants in the water.  Now, I am not talking about noxious floating species such as Kariba weed or water hyacinth or red water fern, rather the rooted, filamentous pond weeds that are characteristic of many local waters.  Pondweeds, belonging to the genus Potamogeton, together with many smaller sub-canopy types such as Chara and Nitella, provide essential functions and ecosystem stabilisation which, once lost through irresponsible management, are almost impossible to replace. Read more »

South Africa’s eutrophication challenges under discussion in Italy

3 September 2014


Eutrophication remains the major threat to stored water supplies

This week sees the hosting of the 15th World Lakes Conference (WLC15) in Perugia, Italy.  One of the discussion themes is that of Wicked Problems, those complex, ever-changing societal and organisational planning problems that evade successful remedial intervention.  The problem of eutrophication is one such problem, for which a group of researchers is now invoking the tool of Morphological Analysis to illustrate their ‘wicked’ nature and, hopefully, underpin a better understanding of what eutrophication management is really all about.

The abstract for one of the three South African papers to be presented on this topic is provided here: Read more »

Is this what fracking the Karoo will look like?

2 September 2014

Is this what the Karoo will look like in years to come? (Source:  TheEcologist/Bruce Gordon).

Is this what the Karoo will look like in years to come? (Source: TheEcologist/Bruce Gordon).

Among the risks of fracking are fragmentation of wildlife habitats, groundwater depletion, surface water pollution. The risks are compounded by a failure among companies and regulators to record or disclose essential information – from the chemicals used, to the time and place of toxic spills.  Read more in this report from The Ecologist.