The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) will lead a R7-million water quality testing project, titled ‘Improving Ocean Governance in the Benguela Current Large Marine Econsystem’ (BCLME III) in the Swartkops area, in Port Elizabeth.
The project is being implemented by the Benguela Current Convention (BCC) Secretariat, in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme, which will be funded by the Global Environment Facility and BCC parties.
The DEA will be working in association with the national departments of Water and Sanitation and Agriculture, Forestry and Fishes, as well as the Eastern Cape Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism and the Nelson Mandela Bay metropolitan municipality.
The project will run for three years.
BCLME III has implemented demonstration projects in each of the three BCC countries – South Africa, Angola and Namibia.
South Africa’s water quality testing project is investigating the causes and impacts of impaired water quality on the living marine resources and associated dependent communities, to develop or improve national standards and guidelines for water quality maintenance.
The identified project site, in Swartkops, was selected for investigation owing to the maricultural operations in the area, including mussel and oyster farming and the commercial harvesting of seaweed and wild mussels.
The DEA stated on Friday that a number of primary sources of pollutants are affecting the marine ecosystem around South Africa and also potentially impacting on the users of the coastal and marine environment.
Some of the main sources of pollution come from sewage and effluents from municipalities and other effluent and pollutant discharges from a number of different industries.
Types of discharges vary widely from surf zone and estuarine discharges of municipal sewage or industrial wastewater to discharges through well designed offshore marine outfalls fitted with hydraulically efficient diffusers operating in water depths of more than 20 m.
The project is aimed at developing water quality monitoring standards and practices, and maintaining the quality as ‘fit-for-purpose’, while improving the operation of wastewater treatment and the environmental practices of industries and commercial establishments.
The overall intent of the water quality testing is to mitigate or remove the effects of impacts on water quality through activities such as the recycling of wastewater, removal of pollutants before discharge, better management practices by industry and commercial interests.
Existing wastewater treatment will also be adapted to meet specific and higher standards. Communities will monitor water quality for their own welfare, agricultural run-off and sedimentation will be more strictly monitored and controlled, and the potentially harmful impacts from aquaculture will be addressed through better treatments and controls.
Stress reduction will further include investment in technology and infrastructure for the treatment of polluted water that will focus on low technology, low energy, biological and ecological sensitive approaches. The management actions identified will result in the improvement of the water quality from estuaries and provide a conducive environment for growth in the marine aquaculture sector, thus reducing pressure on the natural stocks.
The South African government aims to also align the testing project with Operation Phakisa and use the personnel and mobile laboratories that are already involved.