BRAINSTORM CAPE TOWN

Summary Brainstorm #1 Cape Town December 5th 2017 

A. INTRODUCTION BY PROFESSIONALS

I. Interview with Abbey Ehler, crewmember of Team Brunel

Moderator Katja Roose interviewed Abbey Ehler, one of Brunel’s crewmembers in the Volvo Ocean Race. Abbey told about her life on board during the 9 months race, with specific attention to the water- and technical issues on board. She also mentioned that teamwork is necessary; only with all experience and knowledge joined together, they can complete the race.

 

II. Introduction of Wetskills, by Graham van Niekerk

Graham van Niekerk from the government of Cape Town introduced Wetskills. They use a new way of authentic learning and international networking for students and young professionals with a passion for water. The Challenges take place worldwide, usually during international water related events. In mixed teams, the internationals participants work on real life and transdisciplinary cases from companies and (governmental) organizations. The main task is to think out-of-box and develop realistic concepts. More information on the website www.wetskills.com.

 

III. Introduction on Top Sector Water by Hans Huis in ‘t Veld

One of the participants was Hans Huis in ‘t Veld, director of the Dutch Topsector Water. He told about one of the aims of the Topsector Water: the human capital agenda. Nice to know: Hans is the founder of the ambassadorship, with which students are giving the opportunity to gain experience in and for the water sector during their studies. Wyona Boers is one of those students, and today’s moderator during the brainstorm. Information about Topsector Water can be read at their website www.topsectorwater.nl

 

B. BRAINSTORM SESSION BASED ON TWO THEMES

Cape Town is suffering from its worst drought ever. Therefore, the two projects we choose to discuss during the Brainstorm are both related to the lack of fresh water:

- Theme water quality:  from salt to fresh water using solar energy

- Theme water quantity: moving towards an efficient agricultural sector using aquaponics systems 
 
The audience consisted of 16 representatives from the government of Cape Town and students from South Africa, Germany, Norway and The Netherlands. The group was divided into two, each discussing one of the projects. They did not focus on the technical part of the problem, or search for technical solutions. What they did, was investigate if there are sufficient well-educated students and young professionals to solve the water- and technical related problems. Are the current traineeships prepared for the future water problems? And do governments offer appropriate subsidies? 

I. Project ‘Reduce water use’

The discussion started on the reduction of water use by the people in Cape Town. Part of the people are really cooperating; a part of the people doesn’t care. Now it looks like the reduction goes quite ok. But as soon as this is mentioned by the government, the use of water goes up. So, behaviour only changes at this point, because of the urgent situation. It is not a sustainable change in behaviour yet. The discussion shifted towards the sewage system, as questions was raised whether leaks in the system can be reduced. Lot of waste is caused by damage inside the system. Both vandalism and the lack of knowledge in the townships. Anything get thrown into the sewage system. Besides, things get stolen and are sabotaged. New infrastructure is cost-intensive. But is the biggest gain for water reducing with the people in Cape Town, or is there a big gain in the industry or agriculture? Everybody agrees that the biggest gain is with households. The commercial industry can’t reduce much more. For agriculture, there is a bigger opportunity for aquaponic kind of system at small scale to help communities. Main problem is security. Things get stolen. A lot of people don’t believe there really is a problem. They don’t trust the government and think that it’s all politics to increase the investments on the desalination plant.

 

So, question A can be answered by: Most important is awareness and education to change behaviour. To change behaviour, they must feel it: benefits when you use less, fines when you use more, direct insight in your water use. Also, people sharing their ways of water reduction via social media, motivate other people. More effort should be undertaken to create awareness in all parts of the city and reduction should be encouraged by incentives.

 

B/C: The educational system focuses on traditional studies, like mechanical engineering. This is not sufficient to deal with the new, complex and divers problems. Professors use the same educational program as several years ago and there is no industry experience. There should be more cooperation with the industry and the ‘real world’. But things also don’t change if the mindset doesn’t change. The educational system should focus more on environmental and water related studies. The new generation will then change the companies and governments.

 

D: Realise your part of the system yourself! You can say that the big companies or government must change because you can’t do much, but that’s not true. You are part of it. (Compare it with the 2 minute shower. If you don’t stick to it, because other don’t, things will never change). 

 

II. Project ‘Enough water’

It was agreed that the usual topics of efficient water use, water awareness and communication, and legislation are the key topics that can tackle the water challenges in case of ‘enough water’. Efficient water use in agriculture by using the right crops suited for the local soil and climate, and by using the right irrigation systems. Efficient water use in industry and households by reusing using less potable water and using more grey water. Water awareness and communication are expected to have the biggest impact on saving water and making water reuse easier implementable. Legislation should enforce efficient water use, enable regulated incentives, and should not restrain innovation. South Africa has an energy problem that also impact the possibilities for fresh water production and treatment. The horizon of the government is too short. It is the industry has a bigger horizon and are therefore the ones that can make a change. The water sector should work together with other sectors and industries, to learn from each other, to co-found and especially accelerate innovations, and to come up with sustainable solutions. 
 
Ideas of the Brainstorm:

- Connect the growth of the company to required investment in water and utilities. (Is like taxes)

- Have modular water treatment facilities;

- Make the government better aware of the innovations and best available technologies.

- People should be made aware by implementing incentives and gamification of their water usage. 
 

 

III. Continuation after group swap

The second group continued with the water awareness of citizen and the collaboration with other sectors. The idea was to have smart monitoring available in the houses and real-time water usage information available on your phone and in the house. 

Three main and interrelated questions were discussed. First, ‘Who will pay the system?’, next ‘What should the system encompass, and last ‘What can draw and keep the interest of the citizen to follow the water usage?’

 

The water sector should seek close collaboration with the ICT sector and companies interested in consumer data. There is however an important ethical and data ownership discussion required. Additional, collaboration with other utilities and companies that supply hardware and services of any type of infrastructure should be sought. This can help sharing the cost of implementing and operating the system.

 

The system should measure the real-time water consumption of each single water outlet. This creates awareness of the overall water usage and understand which activities consume most water. It should give an alarm when water is running when it is not supposed to run due to leakage, illegal water extraction by strangers or simply forgetfulness. Graham van Niekerk uses already a similar technology within his company and sites. There has been a huge water saving since the implementation of this monitoring system. 
 
The people are drawn to their water overview when:

- they need to check how much water they can still use before exceeding the daily maximum and paying a fine;

- they can see what rewards they gained by their efficient water usage;

- they can compare with their neighbourhood and other provinces to create a positive competition and to ensure that people work together in their neighbourhood and councils work together in their province;

- they can find a clear overview of all tips and tricks, rewards and fines. 
 
The four main questions were asked but the answers deviated completely form the questions. However, all participants wanted to focus on awareness if they were to make a change. 

THANKS TO ALL PARTICIPANTS 

The Brainstorm in Cape Town was the first one in a line of tree, which will be held during the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-2018. After the VOR, the Dutch Wavemakers continue their mission, by connection other (global) sports events. 
 
We are grateful to all participants who joined the discussion in Cape Town and mentioned remarks and examples about the human capital issues due to the water- and technical related issues. These remarks we take with us toward Hong Kong and it would be great if the audience in the Brainstorm Hong Kong can give something back to the participants in Cape Town. 
 
We are developing an online network community, which makes it far easier for all participants to stay connected: students, government, business and NGO’s.