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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

From music to theology: Stats Unit valuable in research process
2017-02-23

Description: Prof Robert Schall Tags: Prof Robert Schall

Prof Schall, head of the UFS Statistical Consultation Unit
Photo: Leonie Bolleurs

Whether it is analysing data on church attendance, climate change in the Northern Cape or injuries among elite female hockey players, the Statistical Consultation Unit at the University of the Free State (UFS) can assist researchers from the planning of research to publication therof.

Many students and researchers think that the time to consult a statistician is after their research data has been collected. According to Prof Robert Schall, head of the unit, the most significant contribution a statistician can make to a research project is often during its planning. Preferably all researchers should consult the unit early in the research process.

Statistical consultation service free for postgraduates

The consultation unit, established in 2014 in the Department of Mathematical Statistics and Actuarial Science, provides support to all UFS researchers. This service is rendered to postgraduate students at no charge.

“The unit can make a contribution throughout the research process, from the planning of the research project, through the analysis of research data, up to the publication of the findings. I have been involved in projects where, for example, a few very simple changes to the design of a questionnaire would have saved the researcher and the statistician a lot of trouble. It will be beneficial for researchers to have their questionnaires and study proposals (where relevant), reviewed by a statistician,” Prof Schall said.

“The unit can make a contribution
throughout the research process,
from the planning of the research
project, through the analysis of
research data, up to the publication
of the findings.”

Fascinating research topics deliver fascinating data
The professor assisted in a study for the Department of Soil, Crop and Climate Sciences to determine whether rainfall in the Northern Cape had changed over the past 90 years, potentially indicating climate change.

Other interesting projects he has worked on came from the Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences. “Who will not be fascinated by data sets on aspects of rugby, cricket or even netball? One significant finding was a predictor of injury in elite female hockey players. The PhD student identified a pre-season test which predicted the occurrence of an in-season injury with 100% specificity and 100% sensitivity. The finding was quite surprising, and, if the results can be replicated, obviously would be useful in the prevention of injuries,” he said.

This is, of course, not an exhaustive list of projects the unit has worked on. “Not in my wildest dreams would I have expected to be involved in projects coming from the Faculty of Theology, or from the Odeion School of Music,” Prof Schall said.

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