As the Water Research Commission (WRC) wraps up a successful 2019/20 in terms of performance, the firm is eying ambitious goals as it outlines its visions for its 2021 corporate plans (CP21).
During 2019/20, the WRC continued to play its role in the sector as a knowledge hub, promoting coordination, cooperation and communication in water research and development, establishing water research needs and priorities, stimulating and funding water research according to priority, promoting the effective transfer of information and technology, and enhancing knowledge and capacity building within the water sector.
The WRC has achieved a number of performance highlights in 2019/20 despite the challenges experienced in the last quarter as a result of the outbreak of the global Covid-19 pandemic.
This included the launch of the Covid-19 wastewater surveillance programme proof of concept study and the initiation of 92 new research projects in various disciplines in water and sanitation, said WRC CEO Dhesigen Naidoo during a virtual stakeholder update and feedback session on March 2.
Built on strong partnerships and stakeholder relationships, the WRC, over the past five years, completed 480 research projects, 120 of which were completed in 2019/20, ensuring a continuous contribution of new knowledge to the sector.
These studies include microplastics and their occurrence in water sources; organising the use of human waste in a much smarter way, for example through biobricks made from urine; and projects that guide the implementation of safe water reuse in municipalities to increase water security.
During the year under review, the WRC projects led to 44 new innovations, technologies or services, and with further investments in 18 other innovations to take them past the initial stages and out into the market.
Naidoo also highlighted the 109 community-based projects during the year, including the conclusion of the multiuse water scheme project in the Vhembe district in Limpopo, which had impressed the African Development Bank, one of WRCs key partners, so much that they now want to replicate this in every country in Africa.
Now, WRC is turning to the future, outlining its ambitious plans in the new Corporate Plan 2021/22 to 2025/26.
Celebrating its fiftieth year, the organisation is, on the back of knowledge, innovation and partnerships, in a position to catapult South Africa into a much more stable water management domain.
WRC group executive Dr Mandla Msibi said that the CP21 builds on the current strategy and continues to address the challenges and opportunities relating to water and sanitation in South Africa through its research and development portfolio.
The pandemic further created an awareness of the challenges of access to clean water, as this is a vital part of the hygiene process to prevent the spread of the virus.
“We have taken that into consideration into developing our priorities,” he said.
The WRC also recognises the complexity of the sector, noting that the past can no longer be used to predict seasonal weather events and precipitation. The sustainability of the resource is the core of the WRC's primary purpose.
“Increasingly, we have to put more emphasis on building partnerships for mutual benefit; new models for partnership in technology commercialization are beginning to prove their worth and, in 2021, the WRC will strengthen these initiatives.”
CP21 will continue to prioritise the engagement of more partnerships, both global and local, using the proven models for fast-tracking innovation to applications. This will culminate in new projects being implement during the coming year that will take the WRC to the next level of delivering on its mandate.