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The Water Research Commission (WRC) symposium that took place from 16-18 September was hailed by all who attended as a great success. Delegates from South Africa had the opportunity to interact with their counterparts from Canada, India, USA, France, Netherlands, Germany, Australia, the United Kingdom and Singapore, to name but a few, and to exchange insights from water research and innovation across various challenging environments.

The theme for this year’s symposium was “Universal access wherever you are” and formed the heart of the various panel discussions that focused on adequate distribution of safe drinking water and sanitation infrastructure to citizens. An integrated approach to address the challenges of future water uncertainties, climate change, and changing habits, diets, lifestyles and water-demand patterns, was discussed by means of showcasing the most impactful water and sanitation research and technological innovations from South Africa and the various other countries represented. Policy-makers received up-to-date overviews of research outcomes, adoption and emerging issues, and were given the opportunity to express their research needs. The symposium was also an excellent platform for knowledge exchange between researchers, research providers and industry leaders; participants were exposed to opportunities for collaboration that will enable them to derive maximum benefit from available research funds.

The symposium also hosted the second WRC Knowledge Tree Awards. These awards are presented to recipients whose research and innovations have impacted and uplifted the water and sanitation sector in a variety of ways. The Awards are named for the WRC’s strategic planning approach to research impact. The Knowledge Tree metaphor reflects the WRC’s strength in research (i.e., its ‘roots’ are firmly embedded in sound knowledge) and strong growth (i.e., ‘branches and leaves’ growing vigorously from this knowledge). It also acts as a yardstick with which to measure the WRC’s impact in the key domains of (1) transformation and redress; (2) sustainable development solutions; (3) empowerment of communities; (4) informing policy and decision-making; (5) human capital development in the water and science sector; and (6) new products and services for economic development.

Within the various research projects funded every year by the WRC a few individuals and project teams went way beyond the call of duty in their efforts to make their research real and relevant to others. This year twelve researchers were honoured for the incredible impact they have made in their pursuit of scientific excellence and real-life relevance.  Recipients of WRC 2015 Knowledge Tree Awards were: Prof Leslie Petrik (University of the Western Cape) and Dr Barbara Tapela (University of the Western Cape) for their contribution towards transformation and redress; Prof Geoff Pegram (University of KwaZulu-Natal) and Prof Wim van Averbeke (Tshwane University of Technology) for sustainable development solutions; Associate Prof Ulrike Rivett (University of Cape Town) and Ms Rowena Hay (Umvoto Africa) for empowerment of communities; Prof Olaf Weyl (South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB), Honorary Professor at Rhodes University) and Ms Unathi Jack and team (Emanti Pty Ltd) for informing policy and decision making.

To find out more about the WRC and the research they fund, and to follow up on post-symposium stories and feedback, go to www.wrc.org.za.


Participate in post Symposium discussions by asking questions or sharing your comments via our social media links.

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