Annual Interdisciplinary Academy

Stream 1: Nanotechnology and Water Sustainability

Stream Leaders: Prof Bhekie Mamba, Prof Lueta-Ann De Kock and Dr Thabo Nkambule; Nanotechnology and Water Sustainability Research Unit, College of Science, Engineering and Technology, UNISA

It has often been articulated that the next world war would be fought over water resources. The question in people’s minds is whether this war has already started, or it is about to commence. More importantly, are we seriously armed to face up to the challenges and consequences of such a war? The world is water stressed and the depletion of this important resource is threatening to paralyze a number of industrial operations that depend on water. The challenge the SADC region faces is Water Quality Management especially at the less conspicuous drinking water treatment plants (i.e. the smaller plants that service relatively smaller communities). Well known pollutants which can compromise water quality if the water treatment processes are not up to standard include pathogens, agriculture chemicals, persistent organic pollutants, saline water and heavy metals.  Emerging issues that continuously call for our attention include acid mine drainage, cyanobacterial toxins (from blue-green algae), endocrine disrupting compounds and disinfection by-products as a result of the use of chlorine for disinfecting the water. Deteriorating water quality leads to escalation in treatment costs of potable and industrial process water and decreased agricultural yields due to increased salinity of irrigation water. This stream will discuss the current state of affairs and more importantly the discussion will expose the opportunities for research at present and in the immediate future. Advances in technologies for water treatment and how integrated water resources management can be used to mitigate the effects of water scarcity and drought as well as issues of sustainable water resources management in the SADC region would be discussed. The stream concludes by briefly pronouncing how the research at the University of South Africa (and that of the Universities from which the invited speakers come from) has been responding to these challenges and how we will continue to address these so-called water crises in the near future.

Structure of the Stream 

The stream will have two sets of activities. The first set of activities will occur throughout the year; from April 2019 (depending on when approval for commencement is granted) till End of October 2019. In this part, we will invite various domestic and international experts, working in conjunction with the researchers at NanoWS involved in the summer school, will deliver a series of lecturers aimed at unpacking several topical issues on water research in South Africa. These lecturers will feature practical concepts to the chosen students to attend the summer school as well as equipping them with the necessary skills to conduct their research combined with a practical industry perspective. Topics to be covered and dates for such lecturers is to be communicated in due course to those students accepted. It is envisaged that research projects will be formulated in this time by the team of students, domestic guest lecturers and NanoWS research staff members involved in the summer school.

The second and last part of the summer school activities will happen on the week of the summer school as decided by the summer school team (this has been tentatively agreed to happen as from the 4th of November 2019 until the 8th of November 2019). In that week, three international guest lecturers will give three lecturers each (one hour per lecture) to the students over a period of two days. On the third day, the guest lecturers will interact with the students on the projects that had been formulated during the course of the year with the domestic/NanoWS researchers. Herein, the students will be guided on report writing and formulation of conclusions in a scientific manner based on available data used in collaboration with literature studies. The students will then formulate presentations on the fourth day, practice and do final touches on them and consult on the projects with the international guests. Our view is that on this day the domestic guest lecturers will also be around to have talks with the students on their presentations and the collective team will thus ensure that students present their projects to the entire faculty and summer school attendees on the last day of the summer school (Friday).

Stream Programme:

08 – 10 April: Opening of the Annual Interdisciplinary Academy
May: Session 1 (Dates to be announced)
July: Session 2 (Dates to be announced)
August: Session 3 (Dates to be announced)
04 - 08 November: Week-long Interdisciplinary Summer School


  • Prof Bhekie Mamba; Executive Dean of the College of Science, Engineering and   Technology, University of South Africa
  • Prof Lueta-Ann De Kock; Director and Senior Lecturer - Research at Nanotechnology and Water Sustainability Research Unit, College of Science, Engineering and Technology, UNISA
  • Dr Thabo Nkambule; Senior Lecturer – Research at Nanotechnology and Water Sustainability Research Unit, College of Science, Engineering and Technology, UNISA Ms. Deidre Herbst (HerbstDL@Eskom.Co.Za) Environmental Manager: Eskom
  • Mr Sandile Ngcobo ( Bulk Operations Manager Magalues Water
  • Prof Ranil Wickramasinghe ( Faculty Director: Center Director, Membrane Science, Engineering and Technology Center; Ralph E Martin Department of Chemical Engineering; University of Arkansas
  • Prof Sampath Srinivasan  ( Professor Interfacial and Surface Chemistry, Department Inorganic and Physical Chemistry Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore (India)
  • Dr Francis Hassard ( Lecturer in Public Health Microbiology; School of Water, Energy and Environment, Cranfield University, United Kingdom
  • Dr Esper Ncube ( Manager: Process Technology (Randwater, South Africa)
  • Prof Paul Jagals ( Professor: Faculty of Civil Engineering and Geosciences, Department of Sanitary Engineering, Technical University of Delft (Netherlands)

Minimum requirements for participants:

Master’s degree in natural sciences, environmental science, environmental engineering, chemical engineering and civil engineering specializing in water treatment or working towards completing the master’s degree at the end of 2019.


Last modified: 2019/03/05