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Commercial washing powders destroy wetland

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 06 March 2010

The recommendation in a report addressed to the ‘Catchment Management section of the Cape Metropolitan Council’ into the catastrophic poisoning of a wetland in 1999 was never actioned. Are we to see a repeat of this past devastation?

In 1997 there was a catastrophic poisoning of the Wildevoelvlei, one of the Noordhoek Valley Wetlands. A highly toxic blue-green bloom formed on the surface of the lakes as a result of wastewater overflowing from water treatment works. The treated and untreated water had a high concentration of phosphates – a major component of washing powder. SANParks eventually turned the lake anoxic, thereby killing an entire generation of organisms.

Algal bloom

Whatever happened to the recommendations contained in a report 2 years later entitled “The Ecological status of the Wetlands of the Noordhoek Valley”, written by Bryan Davies and Anja Gassner?

According to the report South Africans wastefully use expensive potable water, “necessitating the construction of large complex and very expensive water supply schemes”. Supply schemes that have a “profound ecological and social cost of which the public is lamentably unaware”.

The cause of the pollution problems experienced for the vleis of the Noordhoek Valley is put down to the volume of phosphates contained in commercial washing powders.

The solution and recommendation in the report was for the reuse of Grey Water for irrigation purposes by all households and commercial enterprises. By reusing grey water the volume of phosphates reaching the sewage treatment works would be halved, and the necessity for further expensive water augmentation schemes would be avoided.

At what cost has this report’s recommendation been ignored?

Read the report extract: The Ecological status of the Wetlands of the Noordhoek Valley
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