Page 79 - UCT Research Report 2011

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from solid waste, this proposed wastewater management
process would not only be able to recover valuable
phosphorus contained in urine, but would aid in saving
energy and reducing biological footprints across the
treatment process. The sulphates found naturally in
the salinated water would also help to break down the
wastewater, turning the process from one that is aerobic
(using oxygen) to one that is anaerobic (without oxygen):
that is considered a bonus in that it both reduces costs
and is useful in the removal of organic pollutants in the
wastewater. The resulting significantly lowered sludge
production and reduced energy requirements would
make the system sustainable from the dual perspectives
of ecological and operational economy.
The numbers certainly add up. But will Capetonians
be comfortable with the construction projects required
to implement a dual pipe system in the city, let alone
the suggestion of compartmentalised toilets? While
Professor Ekama recognises the possibility of social
resistance to both models, he remains firm that change
is not only possible but, indeed, inevitable. “The time
for convenience is over,” he argues. “We have to be
more aware of our environmental impact and make small
changes to our behaviour to reduce our environmental
This research carries within it the promise of uniquely
aligned economic, ecological, and social benefits.
International attention has certainly been showered
upon Professor Ekama’s findings, with his research into
alternative uses for sea water having recently won an
award for Excellence and Innovation in Water Engineering
Projects from the International Water Association (IWA).
Professor Ekama and his group have also co-authored four
of the IWA’s scientific and technical reports on activated
sludge modelling, community analysis, and secondary
settling tanks. In addition, he has been a visiting professor
at Virginia Tech, the University of Padua and the UNESCO-
IHE Institute for Water Education in The Netherlands. Such
is his standing in the international community, that he is one
of only a few environmental engineering professors listed
on Thomson Reuters (ISI) Highly Cited Research website.
Collective Culture
Down the hall from the Water Research Group, Professor
Neil Armitage, Professor Ekama’s colleague in Civil
Engineering, and others are also making contributions to
the discipline well beyond South Africa’s borders.
The inter-disciplinary Urban Water Management Group
pools the perspectives and resources of academics
from various departments and seeks to find integrated,
sustainable solutions to water management problems,
particularly as they affect Southern African communities.
Professor Armitage is also the only African representative
Professor Alison Lewis of the Crystallization and Precipitation Research Unit, who has developed a technique known as
eutectic freeze crystallisation to treat acid mine water.