Water, Sewage & Effluent May-June 2017 - Page 7

RESEARCH The Water Research Commission (WRC) and the Energy and Water Sector Education Training Authority (EWSETA) recently signed a collaboration agreement to drive a coherent water skills ecosystem and pipeline in South Africa. Highly water secure countries share three common features: they have high investments in knowledge solutions; they have well-maintained infrastructure; and they focus on nurturing talent and skills. This reality makes the WRC and EWSETA well-matched partners. With its long-term investments in research, development, and innovation, and annually supporting an average of 400 students, the WRC is one of the key players supporting the development of new knowledge and solutions, as well as supporting an advanced skills pipeline to develop these solutions. The EWSETA has a pivotal role to play in orientating its 353 water sector levy payers towards emerging water solutions and innovations, along with driving investments in skills and training for the water sector, which gears new entrants towards greater workplace preparedness and supports existing employees. Addressing the skills gap in the water sector requires three key interventions. First, we need the many existing water skills interventions in South Africa to be better coordinated and connected along the skills pipeline. Second, there is a need to link new workplace entrants with opportunities in the water ecosystem for on-site learning and practical experience, which is crucial to developing professionals. Third, the content of water sector training needs to equip employees with the ability to be resilient, flexible, and prepared for the emerging challenges and solutions of the future. To streamline the water sector skills pipeline and prepare water sector employees for the water jobs and opportunities of the future, the WRC and EWSETA signed a collaborative agreement on 15 March 2017. This collaboration focuses on exploring how to unlock opportunities for exposure to emerging water solutions and innovations using existing bursary, learnership, and internship processes. Also, using mechanisms such as the Water Technologies Demonstration Programme, it hopes to unlock opportunities to expose new water sector entrants to technology demonstrations and management processes. This partnership also allows for the co-creation of new and more relevant mechanisms that will accelerate and streamline the water skills pipeline. In the signing ceremony, Dhesigen Naidoo, CEO of the WRC, emphasised that “South Africa’s route to higher water security lies firmly in the arena of human capital development. The lack of sufficient pools of skill and talent remains the number one constraint. This partnership between the WRC and the EWSETA seeks to catalyse our human resource development initiatives. The WRC and the EWSETA will bridge the traditional ‘ivory towers of academia’ and the real world of work to not only develop large new cohorts of water professionals, but a cadre equipped with advanced knowledge as well as the mechanics of the workplace. This will be a vital pillar in ensuring the future water security of the country and its ability to get to the target of universal access to clean water and safe sanitation.” Errol Gradwell, CEO of EWSETA, supported this statement emphasising that he “welcomes this partnership with the WRC, as it presents the opportunity to synergise activities, address research gaps and questions, focus on career guidance and specialised skills, and catalyse new platforms for skills cooperation.” u From left: Dhesigen Naidoo (CEO of the WRC) and Errol Gradwell (CEO of EWSETA) during the signing of a collaboration agreement to drive a coherent water skills ecosystem and pipeline in South Africa. Membranes to remove viruses from drinking water developed Ultrafiltration membranes, which significantly improve the virus-removal process from treated municipal wastewater used for drinking in water-scarce cities, have been developed by researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). Current membrane filtration methods need intensive energy to remove pathogenic viruses effectively without relying on chemicals like chlorine, which can contaminate the water with disinfection by-products. The new approach for virus pathogen removal was published in the current issue of Water Research. “This is an urgent matter of public safety,” the researchers say. “Insufficient removal of human adenovirus in municipal wastewater, for example, has been detected as a contaminant in US drinking water sources, including the Great Lakes and worldwide.” The norovirus, which can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea, is the most common cause of viral gastroenteritis in humans, and is assessed to be the second- leading cause of gastroenteritis-associated mortality. Human adenoviruses can cause a wide range of illnesses that include the common cold, sore throat (pharyngitis), bronchitis, pneumonia, diarrhoea, pink eye (conjunctivitis), fever, bladder inflammation or infection (cystitis), inflammation of the stomach and intestines (gastroenteritis), and neurological disease. In the study, Professor Moshe Herzberg of the Department of Desalination and Water Treatment in the Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research at BGU and his group grafted a special hydrogel coating onto a commercial ultrafiltration membrane. The ‘zwitterionic polymer hydrogel’ prevents the viruses from approaching and passing through the membrane. It contains both positive and negative charges and improves efficacy by weakening virus accumulation on the modified filter surface, resulti