Stellenbosch University launches water institute

23rd March 2011 By: Petronel Smit

The Stellenbosch University (SU) Water Institute, an initiative aimed at strengthening the work being done in the field of water research, was launched on Tuesday, which marked World Water Day.

Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor, who attended the launch, said it was vital for policy makers to follow a model such as that of the SU Water Institute, which ensured that new knowledge was created and applied to tackle current water challenges. She also urged stronger links between scientists and policy makers.

The Minister asked for the commitment of researchers to do multidisciplinary research not only with partners in South Africa, but also at institutions throughout Africa, to ensure necessary skills development in the water sector.

SU Rector and Vice-Chancellor Professor Russel Botman said the positive attitude with which researchers tackle water-related challenges would help find solutions to “seemingly intractable problems in society”.

Dean of the SU Faculty of Science and chair of the Water Institute advisory board Professor Eugene Cloete added that they had created a national asset that actively contributes towards solving South Africa and the continent’s water related challenges.

The Water Institute united established water research groups in five SU faculties under one umbrella. Current research projects already being undertaken by its affiliates, in collaboration with government and industry, focused on health, agriculture and food, a sustainable environment, nanotechnology and filtration, effluent treatment and social aspects surrounding water.

Affiliated researchers who worked on various water-related topics included microbiologists, polymer scientists, soil scientists, geologists and invasion biologists, as well as engineers, zoologists, food scientists, biochemists, agricultural economists and a philosopher.

The researched topics included the ethics of freshwater management, ownership of water, the safety of agricultural produce, biofouling and biocorrosion control, community health and financial-economic planning of water use.

Other topics, such as endocrine disruptors, hydrodynamics, water engineering, catchment and resource management and invasion biology, as well as the geochemical evolution of water and waste waters, and water governance and management, were tackled.