Research & Innovation 2015-16 - Page 85

Future Water
Early in of 2016, UCT announced the establishment of the Future Water research institute, which seeks to develop
new approaches to the ways in which water is managed, thus meeting the challenges of water scarcity and
ensuring equal access to this precious resource.
Future Water is a transdisciplinary
research institute, under the
directorship of Professor Sue
Harrison from the Department of
Chemical Engineering.
It integrates the work
of researchers across 10
departments and five faculties.
Research addresses water
scarcity within an overarching
systems framework that includes
the effective integration of
urban design, planning and
management, in order to facilitate
a change in urban areas from
‘water-wasteful’ to ‘water-sensitive’.
Supported by strong sociological,
technical, environmental, legislative
and governance expertise, it aims to
understand different perspectives
of water use in both urban and rural
settings, and focuses on providing
for people, industry and the
In particular, the Institute
addresses the government’s
development-oriented goals and
the need for efficient resource
use, social equity and poverty
alleviation, focusing on ‘new’
water resources, water-sensitive
management, maximising
value from minimum resource,
and building resilience and
strengthening governance.
The goal is to recognise
resource scarcity, but ensure
that all people have access to
water of sufficient quality.
Novel use of cell-phone technology to help rural communities with water management
In 2015, Information for Community Services (iCOMMS), an interdisciplinary research group, received an award
from the Water Research Commission (WRC) of South Africa for its novel use of information communication
technologies (ICT) to help rural communities and municipalities to improve water service delivery. Founder and
team leader, Professor Ulrike Rivett, says: “We started off by developing mobile applications for water quality
management, which were implemented in Asia and Africa. Today we are able to understand ICT and its potential
in far more detail.” Some of the projects undertaken by iCOMMS in the past year include:
World Bank Study
iCOMMS partnered with management consulting
firm Cowater International in a World Bank
project: a study in seven African countries to
build knowledge and develop guidelines for the
use of ICT tools and services. It investigated the
emerging uses of ICT across sectors in order to
improve the planning, implementation, monitoring,
management and regulation of and accountability
for water and sanitation systems.
iCOMMS developed an Android phone application,
DropDrop, to help individuals track their water
consumption. The app allows users to access
information on their daily water usage, predicted
end-month water bills, water conservation methods,
municipal contacts and the water system. The
application does not require internet access to
function, making it useful in communities with limited
or no internet access. The iCOMMS team collaborated
with the City of Cape Town municipality to assess the
impact of Drop Drop on water demand management
and water conservation at household level.
Eastern Cape Research
In collaboration with the
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan
University, iCOMMS
conducted a study for the
WRC in the Cacadu District
of the Eastern Cape, to
empower communities
by investigating if
and how ICTs can give
them a voice in local
governance. It contributed
towards understanding how to
engage rural communities as key
stakeholders in water supply management,
and provided scientific evidence for the use and
usefulness of ICTs in rural community engagement
in the water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH)
sector. By developing an ICT tool that can be used
anonymously to report problems, the research left
communities feeling more empowered to raise
concerns and report faults in water supply.
Based on a story by Carolyn McGibbon.
Clean Water and Sanitation 80


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