12 April 2012

Professor Christopher SaintProfessor Christopher Saint will discuss cutting-edge research on the future of Australia’s water supply at a public lecture on Tuesday April 17.

The lecture, part of the University of South Australia’s popularKnowledge 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,” Prof Saint says. 
According to Prof 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.  
“In South Australia the chief concern for us in our source waters is blue-green algae (cyanobacteria),” Prof Saint says.  
“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.”
Prof 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,” Prof Saint says. 
“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 on-line monitoring capabilities are developed and deployed.”
The research on water quality comes at a time when our country is facing an uncertain future in terms of water supply. As one of the world’s largest water users, we must 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,” Prof Saint says. 

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

Prof Saint’s ‘Water quality management – it can be in the genes’ lecture will be held at 6pm on Tuesday April 17 at the Bradley Forum, Level 5, Hawke Building, UniSA City West Campus. To register for Prof Saint’s lecture and to subscribe to the Knowledge Works lecture series go towww.unisa.edu.au/knowledgeworks

Media contact

  • Kelly Stone office (08) 8302 0963 mobile 0417 861 832 email kelly.stone@unisa.edu.au

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