11:00-11:30 The Science and Politics of Water Management

Presenter: Prof Ochieng Aoyi, Vaal University of Technology


Water is essential and political

One cannot dream of life without water – it’s a critical commodity. As such, we need to understand how local, national and international politics influence water provision. In many developing countries, like South Africa, the politics around water is about survival as well as a decent life.

SA-relevant technologies and competencies needed

When it comes to water, competency goes beyond hard science. It touches on professional ethics. South African engineers should be competent and courageous enough to reject water technologies that don’t suit our circumstances and adopt those that are appropriate.

However, this kind of competency is not nurtured. It is also not necessarily embedded in our current university curriculum which is replete with examples from developed countries, even when they are irrelevant.

This type of competency is part of an engineering management style that promotes resilience-strengthening technologies as opposed to copycats sold in the name of bench marking.

Scientific evidence needed for water provision technology decisions

The municipality is the first port of call regarding initiatives to improve water supply. Studies have shown how politics around raw technology affect clean water provision by African municipalities.

Energy-sensitive technologies have attracted a lot of attention in South African water management. Such technologies include appropriate renewable energy production and waste beneficiation. For all these technologies, the science must unpack what is appropriate for a specific region’s needs.