WATER MANAGEMENT: SU Researchers Combine Forces
Recent Western Cape Business News
THE Stellenbosch University Water Institute, an initiative that aims to strengthen the already renowned work being done in the field of water research by SU academics, was launched last month on World Water Day.
The event was preceded by a well-attended public seminar during which four influential voices in the South African water sector provided insights into the water-related challenges and possibilities facing the country and the continent.
The Stellenbosch University Water Institute unites established water research groups in five SU faculties under one umbrella. Current research projects already being done by its affiliates, in collaboration with government and industry, focus on health, agriculture and food, a sustainable environment, nanotechnology and filtration, effluent treatment and social aspects surrounding water.
“Our university has over the years built up excellent capacity within the field of water research, in various departments and various faculties,” said Eugene Cloete, dean of the SU Faculty of Science and chair of the Stellenbosch University Water Institute advisory board. “By uniting our researchers in such a way I believe we have created a national asset that actively contributes towards solving South Africa and the continent’s water related challenges.”
Microbiologists, polymer scientists, soil scientists, geologists, invasion biologists, engineers, zoologists, food scientists, biochemists, agricultural economists and a philosopher count among the affiliated researchers who work on topics such as the ethics of freshwater management, ownership of water, the safety of agricultural produce, biofouling and biocorrosion control, community health, financial-economic planning of water use, endocrine disruptors, hydrodynamics, water engineering, catchment and resource management, invasion biology, the geochemical evolution of water and waste waters, water governance and management.
Cloete, who is also the inventor of the teabag water filter that made international headlines last year, announced that a licensing agreement has been signed with a South African company, Aquacure, to produce, manufacture and market the filters, and that SU would benefit through this agreement. In his address, he provided insights into the opportunities to use nanotechnology in the water industry.
He also said that research by his team at Stellenbosch University is ongoing into ways to use the existing filter technology, which combines electrospun nanofibres and biocides, for other effluent treatment options.
Also speaking at the seminar were Hamanth Kasan, general manager of Rand Water’s scientific services division, Rivka Kfir, CEO of the Water Research Commission, and Anthony Turton, an environmental advisor and vice-president of the International Water Resource Association (IWRA).
Kasan, gave an insightful overview of the role of water in development, and the challenges in this regard. He believes it is possible for developing countries to overcome water and sanitation challenges, and cited the example of Singapore and Uganda.
“We need efficient demand and supply management practices, including rainfall storage, desalination and recycling of water; we need top quality water provision 24 hours per day; we need public and private sector participation, and we need to take efficiency and equity issues into consideration,” he believes.
According to Turton, South Africans have to turn from being consumers of waters to conservators of this valuable natural resource.
“It’s only through a profound understanding of the so-called ‘water-energy-food super nexus’ that we will be able to sustain South Africa’s economy and turn it from being an extractive one with high costs to the environment into a future economy.”
He stressed the importance of dedicated training and research institutions within the field of limnology to ensure adequately human skills development in addressing water-related issues.
In her talk about ways in which to reduce water wastage to ensure a zero domestic effluent state, Kfir highlighted technologies developed in Southern Africa that have had a worldwide impact on the treatment of municipal waste waters. This includes the Bardenpho Process and direct domestic sewage reclamation methods.
She also urged for greater use of ecosanitation options, as it reduces water needs, improves food security and minimises the impact on water quality.
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