To ensure a sustainable livelihood, we need water. A lack of adequate, safe and affordable water supplies has immediate and negative consequences, especially on vulnerable groups such as children, the elderly and the poor. It simply creates a plethora of health, environmental and socio-economic problems.
South Africa faces formidable and unprecedented challenges in meeting the rising demand for potable water. Our available supplies of fresh water are decreasing due to extended droughts, deteriorating water quality, more stringent health-based regulations, and competing demands from a variety of users. Moreover, increased pollution of groundwater and surface water from a wide variety of industrial, municipal and agricultural sources has seriously tainted water quality.
In response to these water challenges, the Stellenbosch University Water Institute was established in 2010 to collaborate with government and industry. This multidisciplinary research enterprise across various SU faculties and departments draws on the fundamental and goal-directed research already undertaken by some of our most experienced scientists. It unites our microbiologists, polymer scientists, engineers, earth scientists, biochemists, aquaculture specialists, invasion biologists, soil scientists, conservationists, philosophers, legal minds and planners all towards one goal – to solve water related challenges, to provide technology transfer and to develop human resources.
Through a focus on water, issues such as health, effluent treatment, agriculture, food, a sustainable environment, nanotechnology and filtration are addressed. This includes 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.
Innovation holds the key to the mitigationall of these problems – ranging from unsophisticated technologies like rooftop rainwater harvesting to high- tech nanotechnology solutions. One of the SU Water Intstitute’s biggest successes thus far in this regard has been the development of a teabag waterfilter which enables the user to purify water on the spot for drinking purposes. This innovative product grabbed the attention of international researchers and environtalists.