“South Africa needs a blue revolution in which national assets such as the Stellenbosch University Water Institute can drive the development of technology, innovation and further research to ensure clean, affordable and quality water provision and sanitation.”
So says Prof Eugene Cloete, dean of the Stellenbosch University (SU) Faculty of Science, and chair of the advisory board to the Stellenbosch University Water Institute. The Institute unites the many established water research groups across various departments and faculties of the University under one umbrella in an effort to solve South Africa’s water challenges relating to issues such as safe food provision, sufficient sources of clean potable water, health and a sustainable environment.
“At Stellenbosch University, we have over the years built up excellent capability within the field of water research, in various departments and various faculties,” believes Prof Cloete, the driving force behind the SU Water Institute and a past vice-president of the International Water Association (IWA).
Uniting research can solve problems
“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 even 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.
“The only way to stem predictions that South Africa will run out of water by 2020, is by ensuring that we have the necessary technology in place to recycle and re-use our water sources, by keeping our drinking water clean and by sustainably harvesting as much water as possible,” says Prof Cloete, who is the inventor of the so-called ‘teabag water filter’ – one of the first major projects of the Institute.
Technology, innovation and human capacity needed
“To tackle these challenges, we need the necessary technology, we need to do innovative and goal-directed research and we need to build human capacity,” he believes.
Current research done in collaboration with government and industry focuses on the themes of health, agriculture and food, a sustainable environment, nanotechnology and filtration, effluent treatment and social aspects surrounding water.
“The Institute’s work is aligned with the international development themes of eradicating poverty and related conditions, promoting human dignity and health, and promoting a sustainable environment and a competitive industry, as well as the objectives of Stellenbosch University’s HOPE Project,” says Prof Russel Botman, Vice-Chancellor of Stellenbosch University.
We hope to see the Water Institute continue its groundbreaking work and truly put science and our expertise at the service of human need, to overcome some of the biggest water-related challenges facing our country, our continent, and the globe.