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Hlengiwe Cele  
WRC Knowledge Tree Awards 2013

At the Water Research Commission (WRC) Symposium Gala Dinner held at the CSIR on 26 September 2013 the WRC recognised outstanding performance by various researchers in different disciplines within the water domain.

These awards were linked to the ‘Knowledge Tree’ which is the newly adopted corporate planning tool guiding WRC operations.  According to the WRC CEO, Mr Dhesigen Naidoo, the tree metaphor reflects strength in foundation and strong growth. The 'Knowledge Tree' acts as a yardstick with which to measure the WRC’s impact in key domains.  

In the category of projects that have demonstrated transformation and redress Prof Ochieng Aoyi of the Vaal University of Technology (VUT) was given an accolade for his work in establishing and growing the Water and Wastewater research group in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the VUT, and for his work in developing capacity by supervising a number of previously disadvantaged students at postgrad level.

Prof Lingam Pillay of the University of Stellenbosch was awarded for developing the supply of cost-effective drinking water and wastewater treatment through the development of an innovative woven fibre micro filter. In the same category Prof Leon van Rensburg of the University of Free State was also recognised for their sterling work in guiding the management of salinity under irrigation at farm level in South Africa through research and so ensuring continuous food production.

Mr Simon Bruton from Groundtruth, a winner in the category of Empowerment of Communities, was recognised for the development of the comprehensive river health monitoring tool for use by communities, and especially schools, in South Africa. This tool has assisted in the education of learners about the importance of the river health.

The State of Non- Revenue Water in South Africa study by WRP Engineers, under the leadership of Dr Ronnie Mackenzie, received an award for conducting the most comprehensive study of its kind to date. The project investigated 132 municipalities and provided evidence of water losses in South Africa.  The information derived from the study has assisted many water entities in their decision making processes.

Another WRC project that has provided appropriate evidence-based information to guide decision-making is the Shared Rivers Initiative focusing on collective action for improved water resource management. One component of the Shared Rivers Initiative explored the progress towards meeting the commitment to sustainability of South Africa’s Lowveld rivers, as set out in the National Water Act (RSA, 1998). The project was led by Dr Sharon Pollard of AWARD.

Prof Blignaut from the University of Cape Town, who has dedicated himself to growing capacity in the water sector, was also amongst the winners. Prof Blignaut’s latest WRC project saw the training of no less than 11 post-graduate students in various disciplines.

The WRC highly values projects that contribute to job creation and economic development through the development of innovative technologies. The project entitled ‘Water Services Franchising: Moving from Theory to Practice’, led by Amanz’abantu in collaboration with the CSIR, was recognised within this category. Through private sector support the project has led to the successful pilot implementation of water services franchising in schools and homesteads in the Eastern Cape. The sterling work done by

Dr Jonathan Denison of Umhlaba Consulting for the comprehensive learning materials package on water harvesting and conservation aiding food security in South Africa did not go unnoticed under the community empowerment category.

Amongst the innovative experts, Dr Nico Benadé, who developed material for implementation of the Water Administration System (WAS), an integrated information system for reduction of water distribution losses in irrigation schemes, was also recognised. The WRC-funded international award-winning WAS is helping to improve water efficiency on all of South Africa’s major irrigation schemes.

The conferring of these awards emphasised the points raised by the Minister of Science and Technology, Mr Derek Hanekom who, in his opening address, indicated that unless research makes sense to the people on the ground it means nothing.  According to Mr Hanekom, while we’re working at a strategic and theoretical level, we should not forget that water is fundamental to development in South Africa. The scientists therefore need to find better ways to apply water science and water technology to improve the socio-economic conditions of ordinary people.

Contact:  Stakeholder Liaison, Mrs Hlengiwe Cele at hlengiwec@wrc.org.za
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