Page 81 - UCT Research Report 2011

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That’s a vision that the likes of Professor Alison Lewis,
Director of the Crystallization and Precipitation Research
Unit at UCT, and Associate Professor Ulrike Rivett, head
of the UCT research team of Information for Community
Oriented Municipal Services (iCOMMS), share. Both have
contributed, through their research, to securing the quality
of valuable water resources.
Professor Lewis and her team devised a means to treat
acid mine water, so that it is “good enough to drink”. In
her technique, known as eutectic freeze crystallisation,
the contaminated water is frozen to a point where clean
water can be recovered as ice, while usable salts can
also be extracted from what was toxic and wasted acid
mine water.
“It’s an environmentally friendly and cost-effective
technology that can be used in a wide range of industrial
sectors that pollute water and thus produce brine,” says
Professor Lewis.
Associate Professor Rivett, meanwhile, is using mobile
technology to protect water quality. Her group has
developed a number of mobile applications that work on
cellphones to support municipalities and give them the
tools to easily and cost effectively monitor the quality of
the water supply that they have a constitutional obligation
to deliver.
The work of both Associate Professor Rivett and
Professor Lewis is described in detail in the Innovation
section of this report.
Ripple effect
Of course, water research at the university is not limited
to senior academics. Rather, the valuable mentoring
that these leading researchers provide is creating rising
research stars, with postgraduate students increasingly
making a splash on the scene.
Master’s degree candidate Raymond Siebrits is one
such student. A scientist with a passion for target-driven
research, he created the Aqua d’UCT project, recently
awarded full support by the Water Research Commission.
Aqua d’UCT aims to gather, analyse, and disseminate
data from targeted water stakeholders ranging from
academics, funders and NGOs to government institutions
at a national level. Siebrits seeks to identify the most
pertinent research issues in the field and identify common
problems experienced across a range of water-focused
Other PhD candidates, such as Jeremy Shelton, continue
to champion research in freshwater ecology. His work
investigates the community-level effects of non-native trout
in the headwater streams of the Cape region, monitoring
invasive species’ effects on Cape Town’s natural freshwater
system. “Nowhere is water-related research as important
as on a dry continent like Africa,” he says. “Our knowledge
about the functioning of freshwater ecosystems in South
Africa is critical to the smart management of our freshwater
resources and the many life forms that depend on them.”
Water researchers at the university believe strongly in
combining collaborative undertakings with department-
specific project focus areas. There is also a strong
emphasis on pairing up-and-coming talent with leading
specialists. And, most importantly, they share a key vision:
helping our two-billion-year-old liquid legacy to survive
going forward.
“The valuable mentoring that these
leading researchers provide is
creating rising research stars, with
postgraduate students increasingly
making a splash on the scene.”
The Urban Water Group at UCT is seeking alternatives to
conventional storm water drainage systems by creating
more eco-friendly drainage solutions.