Bridging the water

Co create to learn & experience


Dutch students using an integrated water model for Living Lab in Cape Town

Two third year Water Management students from the Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences have done an internship at the Future Water Institute (FWI), a transdisciplinary research institute addressing issues of water scarcity in South Africa largely through water sensitive design situated in the University of Cape Town. An affinity for water sports such as surfing and competitive swimming, being proficient in the Exact Sciences and a general interest in water-related issues inspired Mathijs de Baar and Ypke Gietema to study Water Management. The study program of Water Management uses a broad approach (using delta technology, delta governance, delta design) to give its students the right set of tools to handle water issues in a practical way.

In the Dutch context, Water Management focusses on water-related issues in a water-rich environment. Going abroad to a place which battles with water scarcity is an ideal place for Dutch Water Management students to test their skills. Experiencing the commute in 25 degrees and sunshine, instead of 5 degrees and rain, has also been a bonus in the experience of working in the southern hemisphere.

The Waterhub
The internship mainly involved assisting with research for the Future Water Institute. FWI collaborated with Stellenbosch Municipality and the Western Cape government, to turn an abandoned water treatment facility into a Living Lab showing advanced techniques and technologies suitable for the African context. This Living Lab is called the Waterhub. The aim is to have the Waterhub running by 2022, although it’s already being used for research by students of the University of Cape Town. The Waterhub will be a lot more than just a research facility. It will turn into a recreation destination, a learning experience for the whole family. A place where people can appreciate water in nature and learn at the same time.

Water Evaluation and Planning
With little fresh water available and rapid population growth, there is a pressing urgency for mapping out future water demands and scenarios. First world, though especially third world countries, find using a supply/demand model as a standalone tool inadequate to address the ever-increasing demands from demographic, economic and climatic pressures, waste-water treatment, water recycling and demand management measures. The project which the Dutch Water Management students is focussing on is showing the importance of an integrated water balance and planning model; called Water Evaluation and Planning (WEAP) for the Stellenbosch municipality. Mainly using the model to run simulations for future planning (2050/2100) in the research area for what the effect is on water demand, quality and scarcity by measuring different temperature increases. Getting a comprehensive overview on this information is necessary to show what benefits the Waterhub could potentially have for the Stellenbosch municipality.

Water Management in South Africa has different challenges than back home. Lack of data availability and transparency of governmental institutes inhibits the process extensively. All fellow researchers at the institute are very aware of this as well. Finding and accessing data has been the biggest challenge. The model is almost ready to be run and the Students are getting closer to receiving the last bits of data. The opportunity to do research overseas and seeing what water management is like for the South African sector has been valuable beyond expectation, and this could have only been taught by experience.




Bridging the Water is part of the Orange Knowledge Programme.