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Dr. Anthony Turton's water quality report Print E-mail
“Water Quality Challenges that Decision-Makers Need to Know Aboutn and How the CSIR should respond” by Dr. Anthony Turton.

The 50/50 t.v. environmental programme alerted South Africans to the fact that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) had prevented the group leader of its Water Resource Governance Systems, Dr. Anthony Turton, from delivering his keynote address on water management.  The CSIR issued a media release to the effect that his written paper had been circulated in the weeks before the conference and was available in their repository of published research, however he was prevented from delivering the presentation as it departed substantially from the written paper. 
(see http://researchspace.csir.co.za/dspace/handle/10204/2620 ).

Dr. Turton’s report states bluntly that ‘South Africa simply has no more surplus water and all future economic development (and thus social wellbeing) will be constrained by this one fundamental fact that few have as yet grasped. An important implication of this fundamental fact is that South Africa has lost its dilution capacity, so all pollutants and effluent streams will increasingly need to be treated to ever higher standards before being discharged into communal waters or deposited in landfills.
’He points out that many threats are already acknowledged, but their severity could increase. One is the eutrophication of river systems, which results from nutrient enrichment, and threatens both water quality and the biodiversity of freshwater systems. Current levels of eutrophication in South Africa are almost unprecedented globally. The most likely sources of these nutrients are dysfunctional sewerage works and informal human settlements (in 2007 over 14 million people did not have access to functioning sanitation).  Dr. Turton speaks of Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) which are commonly found in freshwater systems accessed for the production of drinking water. This is important as cyanobacteria can produce microcystins – toxins that can be extremely dangerous, with deaths recorded in both domestic and wild animals from contaminated water.

Other issues are endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). In the Pretoria area, researchers showed that feminization had occurred in a fifth of male catfish at Rietvlei Dam, probably due to oestrogenic water pollution.

There is a problem with ageing infrastructure because no financial provision was made in the past for upgrading. The South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE) and the executive director Dawie Botha said “The sector is woefully understaffed – the basic underlying problem is a serious lack of capacity in terms of engineering and technical expertise all the way down to operator level.’

By 2004, South Africa had allocated some 98 per cent of its national water resource.South Africa is the world’s 30th driest country. The global rainfall average is 870 millimetres per year and South Africa receives a pitiful 450 millimetres. It lies in a region that has the lowest conversion of rainfall to runoff in the world.

‘South Africa: a ticking Water Bomb?’ by Tim Jackson - Africa Geographic – March 2009
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