Public lecture to investigate water quality management

Friday, 13 April, 2012

Professor Christopher Saint will discuss cutting-edge research on the future of Australia’s water supply at a public lecture on Tuesday 17 April. The lecture, part of the University of South Australia’s popular Knowledge Works series, will reveal that water quality, not just quantity, is important in ensuring our future generations have adequate water supply.

“Water is a key commodity that we should not take for granted. There is much emphasis on quantity but quality is also of paramount importance. The relatively new science of DNA technology can make an important contribution to measuring and ensuring quality,” Professor Saint said.

According to Professor Saint, blue-green algae are a primary concern for South Australia’s water quality. These organisms can produce toxins or compounds that ‘taint’ our drinking water, giving it an unpleasant earthy taste and smell.

“It seems that in Australia and around the world the incidences of blooms of these organisms is increasing and this could be related to increased water temperatures associated with climate change,” he noted.

Professor Saint, Director at the SA Water Centre for Water Management and Reuse, will outline the centre’s innovative research, which is developing solutions for water quality issues, including combating blue-green algae using DNA technology.

“DNA tests can provide an on-site early warning of the presence of organisms such as blue-green algae so that management options can be put in place in a timely manner.

“They are also highly specific and provide the opportunity to definitively identify organisms. This is important as only certain species are harmful but they are difficult to distinguish using a microscope.

“The really exciting aspect of these new technologies is that the environment will become the laboratory of the future as field detection and online monitoring capabilities are developed and deployed.”

The research on water quality comes at a time when Australia is facing an uncertain future in terms of water supply. As one of the world’s largest water users, it is important that we find ways to adapt due to an increasing population and the threat of climate change.

“We are one of the most highly urbanised populations in the world and providing this population with a consistent supply of good quality water is a challenge,” said Professor Saint.

“We are going to see more and more extreme weather events - drought and floods that make water storage, treatment and distribution difficult.”

The lecture ‘Water quality management - it can be in the genes’ will be held at 6 pm on Tuesday 17 April at the Bradley Forum, Level 5, Hawke Building, UniSA City West Campus. To register for the lecture and to subscribe to the Knowledge Works series, click here.

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