South Africa’s Vaal River a pollution problem.

23 February 2012

Something very unusual but quite positive is happening in the South African press: four reports of water quality issues in one week! (see link).  Today we read of well-heeled landowners along Millionaires Bend on the Vaal River, south of Johannesburg, becoming very upset about their cesspool river frontage!  Does this mean the public is becoming more aware and the press losing their fear of the Department of Water Affairs?  Let’s hope it’s both!

As South Africa’s Minister of Finance said quite correctly yesterday in his Budget Speech, its time to reduce the number of bureaucrats sitting in offices and get more people working out in the field – or words to that effect.  Our Department of Water Affairs urgently needs trained and aware field officers across the entire country.  Desk-drivers are not going to attenuate infrastructure collapse and technical skills-shortages. Read more »

Chemicals threaten Michigan Lake

27 December 2011

Barton Pond (Ann Arbor, Michigan) is in the news again:

The Michigan Fish Advisory warns people against eating large amounts of certain fish from bodies of water, including two in Washtenaw County. Read more »

COP17 and Durban’s Debatably Dodgy Water

30 November 2011

It seems as though COP17 delegates may have been spooked by the absence of bottled water at the COP17 meetings in Durban.  Rumours have done the rounds that local drinking water may not be up to standard and the local municipality has been doing some fire-fighting: Read more »

Children hunting??

15 November 2011

Is it just me or does anyone else find this advertisement, posted by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, deeply disturbing??

Do Cyanobacteria cause Alzheimers?? Can we ignore the possibility?

7 November 2011

Cyanobacteria, the blue-green algae known as pond scum, produce a toxin called BMAA. Does it play a role in brain diseases like Alzheimer’s?   Read more »

GroundTruth Consulting shines a light!

2 November 2011

Simplicity of the BenthoTorch measurement (Source: bbe Moldaenke)

Dr Mark Graham, well-known river ecologist from GroundTruth Consulting in Pietermaritzburg, has acquired the revolutionary new BenthoTorch.  The BenthoTorch, made by bbe Moldaenke of Germany and represented in South Africa by DH Environmental, can measure and distinguish the chlorophyll signatures of green, diatom and cyanobacterial algae in a single measurement. Read more »

Moving towards a practical and pragmatic definition of wetlands…

29 September 2011

The term “wetland” means land which is transitional between terrestrial and aquatic systems, where the water table is usually at or near the surface, or the land is periodically covered with shallow water, and which land in normal circumstances supports or would support vegetation typically adapted to life in saturated soil (wording as per the South African Water Act of 1998).

While workable, the definition of wetlands used in South Africa is a catch-all and does not provide anything near the level of specificity for different types of wetlands.  Additionally, it has allowed the inclusion of all sorts of non-wetland environments to be included, such as ornamental ponds, roadside drains and farm dams!  The latter situation has, ostensibly, arisen from a overly-purist, knee-jerk attempt to compensate for the massive historic loss of wetlands on a global scale.  This approach, stemming from a lack of skills in wetland assessment, devalues wetlands sensu strictu and is fraught with confusion.

Read more »

Floating wetland just the beginning

20 September 2011

New Zealand has long recognized the value of the Biohaven floating wetlands – with quite a bit of the research on this technology having been done at NZ’s NIWA.

Tuhipo Kereopa (left), Hemi Leonard, Grace Hoet and Denise La Grouw with Rotorua Primary School students at the new wetlands at Ohinemutu

Tuhipo Kereopa has a vision of creating a whole wetland for Ohinemutu. She and her helpers started recently by installing a small floating wetland on the Lake Rotorua foreshore, adjacent to the mouth of the Utuhina Stream.  Ms Kereopa said the wetland provided a habitat for wildlife and helped with filtering pollution from waterways.



19 August 2011

Dangerous levels of toxic blue-green algae detected in several Kansas waterways prompted state officials to issue public health warnings on Thursday.  The Kansas Department of Health and Environment, along with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, issued warnings for the following lakes on Thursday: Read more »

Ecosystem vs Egosystem Management

16 July 2011

Photo: Bill Harding

Ecosystem management implies that the ‘manager’ has a comprehensive understanding of how all the constituent parts of an ecosystem, living and non-living, interact and respond.  Egosystem management is the belief that a single part, lets say a type of alga, can be managed without affecting anything else.  Egosystem managers also believe that they can manage a single part by managing a single ‘driver’ or ‘forcing function’, and ignore everything else.  This is akin to believing that you can control a crowd by simply speaking to one person in it.  For this to work, the person you speak to (and lets assume that this individual is aligned with your thinking) has to interact with each and every member of the crowd on an intimate level – and that you know and understand this up front.  You may already have grasped that ecosystem managers know very little about what they are trying to manage!

Egosystem management has a lot to do with treating symptoms, rather than causes.
Read more »