The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in South Africa and the Water Research Commission (WRC) have awarded grants to the value of R3 million to seven innovators with solutions to address the country’s water problems related to COVID-19.
The grants, partially funded by the Government of Japan through the UNDP, are to conduct field testing and further develop the innovators’ solutions.
These seven innovators were selected from a long list of 36 applications and a shortlist of 16 who were invited to present their ideas at a pitching session. The implementation of this phase will signify the beginning of the next stage of product development towards an eventual product that can impact South Africa’s water and sanitation landscape. This joint initiative aims to accelerate the rate at which we address South Africa’s pressing water need and achieve progress on Sustainable Development Goal 6 on clean water and sanitation.
Mr Gabriel Dava, Deputy Resident Representative of UNDP South Africa and Mr Dhesigen Naidoo, CEO of the Water Research Commission acknowledged the importance of partnerships such as this one for the advancement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the big role that innovation has to play.
“Today’s development challenges are moving faster than our tailored solutions. Our current approaches are not making enough progress against these 21st century challenges. Effectively addressing these challenges requires radical new approaches that fit the complexity of current development challenges” added Mr Dava.
Mr Mark Bannister, Chief Engineer in the Ministry of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation reiterated the importance of innovation and emphasized the power of improvisation which encourages imagination and yields creativity. He praised the innovators for demonstrating the concept of “thinking outside the box, but not forgetting what is inside the box itself”.
The Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande, cited COVID-19 and climate change as two of the fourfold water-related global crises that we face. He acknowledged the challenges that arise when addressing these crises and called for an integrated approach to address them. He urged for water to be used as an economic good that promotes inclusion and should therefore “be in at the centre of economic development with the same importance as energy”, he added.
The Minister also used this opportunity to announce the upcoming appointment of two new research chairs for the water sector by the National Research Foundation – under the Resource Economics and Economic Sustainability of Water Services.
The chairs are expected to contribute to the sustainability of water and sanitation sector. Having worked with many other stakeholders, the Minister commended the UNDP/WRC partnership and the valuable initiative which will have a significant impact in the lives of South Africans who remain unable to protect themselves from COVID-19 due to the lack of proper water and sanitation.
He further expressed his excitement to witness this unfold, demonstrating the usefulness of innovation in tackling these kinds of development issues. He congratulated the seven innovators as he presented them with award certification.
The innovations awarded are listed below.
Hydro Blü is a predictive software solution that uses modern methods of Geo-Spatial Data Science and Machine Learning to expose the best suited locations to drill boreholes based on environmental characteristics. The model developed automates a deep-learning study and enables hydrogeologists to make data-driven decisions when identifying locations to drill. Early testing of the model has indicated potential accuracy rates of ~80% when predicting, thus resulting in cost-effective decision making.
Biological Carbon Bag
The Biological Carbon Bag is a bioremedian product owned by Adsorb Technologies. The product uses naturally derived pine wood activated carbon which acts as a nutrient to kick-start naturally occurring bacteria by attracting petrochemicals and other pollutants. The product uses cost-effective and natural material therefore resulting in delivery of low-cost water treatment power.
GreenGold Technology seeks to address the problems that exist with traditional fish farming which include high chemical usage and waste levels. The technology is a farming methodology that is environmentally sustainable based on a closed loop system, which relies on a symbiotic relationship between fish phytoplankton (a microorganism). The result of which is water that is free of harmful waste thereby making it suitable for the fish to survive.
MagnaClear Water Treatment System
MagnaClear Water Treatment System works with magnetic technology to efficiently remove solids and fine particles like clay, silt, metal, oil, grease, organic and inorganic waste from water. The system is compact and can easily be transported and connected to operate on various sites. It can be added to existing water treatment systems to enhance performance or be installed as a new stand-alone system. MagnaClear is a green product with compact size, recycling capabilities, low electrical use, and cost efficient. It offers an easy way to provide clean water.
Constructed floating wetlands
This innovation aims to improve the passive treatment capacity of a small wastewater treatment works in the Klein Karoo and entails using low cost and low- tech constructed floating wetlands planted with bulrush (Typha capensis), established in 2019. The treatment capacity will be improved by the addition of filtration cells that mimic wetland soils to aid in excess nutrient removal. The innovation belongs to Trapsuutjies Environmental, a non-proft company (NPC) operating in Oudtshoorn, focusing on water conservation, wastewater treatment and community development.
ENTEC (Pty) Ltd
This technology offers enhanced oxidation pond treatment processes for effluent treatment. The technology offered can be used to upgrade existing pond processing, with a view to increasing capacity and/ or improving discharge quality. It uses low energy aerators and utilises proper pond design to achieve optimal performance. Wind driven aerators that can be retrofitted onto your primary/ secondary/ tertiary ponds to achieve even better aerobic processing and proper disinfection are also available.
h-u-m-a-n Life Designs – women-led project operating out of the Western Cape
The Klipdale Groundwater Phytoremediation Project aims to apply proven global phytoremediation techniques to groundwater for the first time in South Africa. Phytoremediation is the use of certain plant species that successfully draw “pollutants” from water in the process of their normal life-cycle. The technique is widely used in South Africa to clean waste water in the mining and manufacturing industries. But for some unknown reason, it has not been applied to groundwater, which remains a massive untapped water resource due to the fact that most of our groundwater is brackish and unsafe for human, animal and plant consumption.