Understanding the biological activity of high rate algae ponds through the calculation of oxygen balances
We implemented the IWA River Water Quality Model No. 1 (Reichert et al., 2001. River Water Quality Model No. 1, IWA Scientific & Technical Report No. 12) to simulate water-quality characteristics in two pilot-scale High Rate Algal Ponds. Simulation results were compared with two years' of data from the ponds. The first year's data from one pond were used for model calibration; the remaining data were used for validation. As originally formulated and parameterized, the model consistently yielded summer-time algal biomass concentrations which were too low - with consequent failures in its reproduction of dissolved oxygen, pH and nutrient dynamics. We experimented with various structural/parametric changes to improve the model's performance. The most effective strategy was to greatly increase the respiratory losses suffered by the heterotrophic osmotrophs (thereby giving the algae access to a larger fraction of the incoming dissolved organic carbon and nitrogen). This suggests that CO(2)-bubbling alone cannot entirely preclude resource-limitation of algal production. We doubt that our parameterization of heterotrophic osmotrophs is correct and infer that the algae derive a large fraction of their nutrition by direct osmotrophic uptake of dissolved organic matter. This inference is supported by the literature concerning the physiology of the dominant algal species in our ponds.