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Occurrence of cyanobacteria genera in the Vaal Dam: implications for potable water production

Annatoria Chinyama, George M. Ochieng, Jacques Snyman, Innocent Nhapi


The occurrence of cyanobacteria genera in the Vaal Dam was analysed and the factors that influence its dominance in the particular reservoir were also investigated. The study was motivated by the effects of the secondary metabolites of cyanobacteria genera on potable water production. Cyanobacteria genera have been found to be potentially toxic and capable of producing taste and odour secondary metabolites such as geosmin. Historical data from the Department of Water and Sanitation on percentage composition of cyanobacteria genera in the Vaal Dam, were collected for the 2006, 2007, 2011 and 2012 years. The concentrations of NO2-N and NO3-N and total phosphorus as well as water temperature data were collected from the same sampling point for the study period. This data, together with weather data, was statistically analysed for trends and relatedness between variables. It was found that Microcystis and Anabaena were the dominant cyanobacteria genera in Vaal Dam and they were jointly dominant over other phytoplankton genera during February and March. It was also found that the dominance of cyanobacteria genera significantly correlated with air and water temperature and concentration of NO2-N and NO3-N. It was concluded that the dominance of Microcystis and Anabaena genera among the cyanobacteria genera has significant implications for potable water production as the genera are associated with taste and odour metabolites and toxins. It was recommended that depth profiling be employed in order to identify an abstraction depth in the multilevel intake of the reservoir with relatively low levels of cyanobacteria cells. This would assist in minimising taste and odour events in potable water production.

Keywords: Anabaena, cyanobacteria dominance, environmental conditions, Microcystis, Vaal Dam, water treatment.
AJOL African Journals Online