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26 March 2018 Photo Pixabay
Back to the drawing board to save water
We’ve managed to damage nature’s ‘filter’ with air, ocean, and soil pollution, and by destroying wetlands.

Dr Cindé Greyling, a University of the Free State (UFS) DiMTEC (Disaster Management Training and Education Centre for Africa) alumni, studied drought mitigation with a strong focus on communicating important water-saving information. 

Can we run out of water?
Yes, and no, says Dr Greyling. “To our knowledge, water is not ‘leaking’ through our atmosphere. We have what we have, but that doesn’t mean we will have enough clean, fresh water forever. Nature has a magnificent way of purifying water through the water cycle. We, on the other hand, must use a lot of money and energy to purify water. Also, we’ve managed to damage nature’s ‘filter’ with air, ocean, and soil pollution, and by destroying wetlands. The other problem is a simple supply and demand scenario. More people will need more water, but not only that, population growth calls for industry development and increased food supplies – all of which require more water.”    

A war over water
Besides some Hollywood impressions, it is difficult to imagine a war over water, but it is possible. “Some experts are convinced that we are heading there, and others claim that such tensions already exist. Personally, I don’t favour these kinds of shock tactics (or truths) – social research has shown us that it rarely leads to behavioural changes. We can learn a lot from what was has been done in Cape Town. Although we all think people were bombarded with ‘Day-Zero’-scares, they were actually encouraged to adapt their behaviour with a communication campaign that hardly ever used the term ‘Day-Zero’. This approach mobilised citizens to reach record lows of water usage.” 

Adapt a new normal
Dr Greyling encourages the “new normal” set in motion by Capetonians. “Water consciousness is needed, even when the rain comes again. We’ve taken water for granted for too long. As consumers, we have the power to turn this situation around – drop for drop. Be aware about the amount of water you use, how you use it, and for what. Keep in mind that any wastage and pollution (of ‘dry’ things) also wastes and pollutes water. Generally, we need to behave better regarding consumption.”  

News Archive

The impact of personal care products on water resources in the Free State
2015-12-14

Jou-an Chen
Photo: Charl Devenish

Water is of the utmost importance in personal hygiene. Most people can hardly have a day go by without taking a shower in the morning and at night. However, it is this very habit that is increasingly polluting the water resources in South Africa.

Contaminants found in pharmaceutical and personal care products have been accumulating in water masses in recent years. These contaminants especially refer to hormones in medication, as well as colouring agents and fragrances used in soap, shampoo and body lotions.

“Little information and data are available on the prevalence of these contaminants, and on how high the level of pollution really is,” says Jou-an Chen, researcher in the Department of Microbial, Biochemical and Food Biotechnology at the UFS.

Her research particularly focuses on the prevalence and impact of those contaminants.

“Because these substances have not been properly investigated, we are not sure how widely it occurs and whether it is harmful to the environment. It was precisely the lack of information that has inspired me to investigate further.”

“If we could identify the contaminants and what it is doing to the environment, it could make a valuable contribution to directives on water quality standards.”


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