Water Week: Aqua d'UCT identifies gaps in water research

11 March 2013

A project team of postgraduate students in Environmental and Geographical Science (ENGEO) is applying various internationally recognised tools to determine and evaluate research and development in water research, part of the Aqua d'UCT project. Collaborating with key stakeholders across the country, they will use the project as a vehicle to identify future research needs.

"This is a research initiative that seeks to develop a shared and collaborative understanding of South Africa's water futures," said ENGEO's Dr Kevin Winter. "The first project, in its final stages of completion, has attempted to identify and prioritise water research questions for South Africa; and a second project underway is to identify and analyse the gaps in water R&D in the country. As a result, Aqua d'UCT has become fairly well known as a brand among water sector players. "It's an exciting initiative that is finding new ways to understand the issues and challenges facing water resources in the future," said Winter.

Aqua d'UCT was started by UCT students two years ago and was driven by Raymond Siebrits, an MSc student in ENGEO, under Winter's supervision.

"Aqueducts are viaducts or bridges built to convey water across valleys or gaps; and at UCT, the concept is being used as a metaphor to identify and analyse gaps in water research in South Africa," said Winter. "This will prioritise water research questions, and identify the investments required to meet future human resource and technological needs to enable the sustainability of water resources for South Africa." With its strong emphasis on meta-research and collaboration and in building student expertise in futures methodologies, the Aqua d'UCTinitiative looks set to take off.

A current Aqua d'UCT project, funded by the Water Research Commission, also involves scientometric analyses of peer-reviewed water research publications over the past 40 years, together with a countrywide survey of research and researchers in the water sector. On the basis of this, researchers, practitioners, academics, and NGOs then met for a two-day consultation to prioritise a list of pressing water research questions that were identified by a diverse range of respondents. Over 2 000 questions were generated from this survey, refined to a total of 60 during the consultative process.

(For more information, go to www.aquaduct.org.za.)

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