The overall aim of the project is to foster collaboration and knowledge exchange on issues pertaining to water, amongst Ducth and South African institutions.

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Read the project report from a TU Delft student team from their time at Future Water; guide for assessing the physical characteristics of stormwater ponds

Funder: Nuffic

Duration: 2019 -2022

Team : Kevin Winter


UDelft, Wateropleidingen/World Water Academy (delegated project manager), HS Rotterdam, CEW Leeuwarden and Waterschap Brabantse Delta on the Dutch side and University of Cape Town, Durban University of Technology, Salga, City of Cape Town and Ethekwini from South Africa


The aim aims to support UCT’ Vision 2030 and UCT’s environmental sustainability strategy. The project will focus on 5 key themes and consider the environmental, financial and social impacts associated with these themes in the UCT campus context a number of sustainability themes: Energy, Carbon footprint, Water, Waste Management and Wildfire in UCT. A transdisciplinary community of practice to work in a coordinated manner across these various research themes.

Key areas of intervention and work packages:

1. Carbon footprint/Energy Nexus (led by Professor Harro von Blottnitz):

Development of a cost optimal pathway and business case for UCT to strongly reduce its Carbon emissions as required by science.

2. Waste-to-Energy, Water and Food Nexus (led by Dr Thanos Kotsiopoulos)

Development of a campus-wide, integrated food-water-energy system based on the anaerobic digestion (AD) of organic waste with concomitant technologies to produce valuable products

3. Wildlife, Waste & Food Nexus (led by Professor Nicoli Nattrass)

Educating the campus community about the ‘waste–rodenticide–wildlife’ connection through action research and by employing innovative art to support recycling, waste reduction and integrated pest management of external spaces on upper campus.

4. Sustainable Water Management (led by Dr Kirsty Carden)

Transforming UCT into a ‘no-drop wasted’ campus by seeking to embed a more holistic approach to water management in line with Water Sensitive Design (WSD) principles. This will be achieved by assessing alternative water use opportunities on UCT’s main campuses and selecting projects that could be implemented as exemplars/test cases.

5. Building an inclusive university wide community of practice for transformative sustainability outcomes (led by Dr Britta Rennkamp, Prof Sheona Shackleton in collaboration with Manfred Braune):

Building a university community of practice.

Below is  a diagram depicting the core technical areas of intervention of the project and how these might interface and intersect – as the project develops, team leaders will build on these intersections and opportunities.

Funder : University of Cape Town

Duration: 2021 - 2025


Funder: DANIDA Strategic sector collaboration program Phase 1 and Phase 2

Duration: 2019-2021 (Phase 1); 2022 - 2025 (Phase 2)

Team: Kirsty Carden, Neil Armitage, John Okedi, Kevin Winter, Jessica Fell, Amber Abrams

The overall objective is to identify opportunities for, and generate knowledge on, the physical and institutional integration of decentralised nature-based solutions into the urban water cycle to support and accelerate a transition towards water resilience in South African cities. The experimental work will be addressed in two inter-related work package (WP) streams: WP1 on physical experimentation with and evaluation of WSD options at different urban scales; and WP2 on exploring governance processes for enabling the emergent transitions. Visit the PaWS project page, learn about project outputs or read a news archive.


Future Water is partnered with the Cooperative Research Centre for Water Sensitive Cities Institute at Monash University and with Aurecon to apply the Water Sensitive Cities transition planning process to Cape Town, South Africa. Read more about these efforts here.

Duration: 2020 - 2021

Team: Kirsty Carden



The overall aim of the project is to address the issue of mine closure in the context of local socio-economic development and community well-being and livelihoods by conducting an assessment of mine closure risk and post mine closure land-use opportunities and assessing impacts on the host communities.

The project will deliver enhanced knowledge and information pertaining to:

  1. A set of indicators and national map for assessing and predicting mine closure risks on the environment and community well-being in South Africa;
  2. A set of indicators to rank and score post-closure land-use opportunities;
  3. A database of mine closure risks for mining communities in South Africa;
  4. Identification and ranking of opportunities for post-mining land use for four case studies in Limpopo (PGM mining), Mpumalanga (coal mining), Gauteng (gold mining).



Funder: DANIDA Strategic sector collaboration program Phase 2

Duration: 2019 - 2021

Team: David Ikumi, George Ekama



Currently, the cement industry produces about 5% of all the global CO2 emissions and operates at high temperatures. Natural processes that produce bio-cement products can offer a more sustainable means for manufacturing building material.

This project focuses on growing bio-material using ingredients found in human urine.

Read more.


The overall aim of this project is to develop ‘user-friendly’ guidelines for the design, construction and maintenance of permeable interlocking concrete pavements (PICP) in South Africa

  1. Identifying the most appropriate PICP designs for South African conditions.
  2. Identifitying the effective maintenance equipment and methods.
  3. Dveloping ‘User-friendly’ guidelines for the design, construction and maintenance of PICP in South Africa.

Funder: Water Resource Commission and PICP industry partners

Duration: 2021 - 2023

Team: Neil Armitage, Charles Teta, Kirsty Carden

Partners: University of Witwatersrand



It is recognised that Water Sensitive Design (WSD) can improve freshwater quality and water quantity, be restorative to ecosystems and enhance built environment amenity value. Since the Water Research Commission (WRC) published Water Sensitive Design (WSD) guidelines in 2013, much has been done in terms of contextually relevant studies for South Africa. Follow up studies have addressed the challenges to and opportunities for the implementation of WSD in South Africa. Such studies have covered, for example, rainwater (RWH) and stormwater harvesting (SWH), sustainable (urban) drainage systems (SuDS), greywater reuse and groundwater use linked to managed aquifer recharge (MAR).

Research on individual WSD technologies in South Africa has reached a pivotal level of maturation. Our aim in this study to extend the above insights with architectural and urban design investigations in context and at scale to (i) meet spatial design targets (ii) fulfil human health and neighbourhood amenity objectives (iii) deliver and protect a full range of ecosystem services; while (iv) incorporating user-perspectives and (v) working within feasible technical and financial parameters.


  • Propose WSD interventions for regeneration of a brownfield precinct at neighbourhood and architectural scales

  • Determine, using quantitative and qualitative approaches, the estimated benefits of WSD at urban design and architectural levels (such as water saving, nutrient recovery, urban heat island and flood risk mitigation, access to recreational space and food gardens etc)

  • Develop a decision support framework for WSD

  • Develop a toolkit for residents and developers to use in piecemeal implementation of WSD

Funder: Water Research Commission

Duration: 2018 - 2021

Team: We bring together competences from architecture and design, anthropology, engineering and public health.

Academics: Dr Tom Sanya (Team Leader); Dr Kirsty Carden; Nikiwe Solomon; Dr Germaine Owen; Dr Amber Abrams; Dr John Okedi; Prof. Aqiel Dalvie

Students: Chisomo Phiri (PhD - architecture) – Faith Gara (Master’s – anthropology) – Donna Shefer (Master’s – Urban and Regional Planning) – Mari Smith (Master’s – Urban Design) – LinaLukusa (Master’s – Information Systems)

External collaborator: Oliver Keisner (sustainability entrepreneur)



This project engages citizens of South Africa (especially those in Cape Town) with the aim of collaboratively developing an online interactive map of the various water samples/stories submitted to begin to develop an understanding of local water users and their perceptions of their water sources. The map provides an interactive space, where:

  1. individuals can input your own water sources, and related stories, images, or efforts;
  2. groups and organizations linked to water can share their projects and network with others;
  3. researchers and funders can begin to understand the water-use and watery engagements landscape; and
  4. we can all come together around the vital resource of water, to better understand our watery needs, relations and uses.

You can learn more about how to get involved in the project, or the academic aims, or you can just visit the map and start exploring.

Funder: Multiple sources (i.e., Future Water, URC, etc)

Duration: 2019 - ongoing

Team: Amber Abrams



Our urine only makes up 1% of the volume of domestic wastewater streams but it contains about 80% of the nitrogen, 56% of the phosphorus and 63% of the potassium. These are three key ingredients required for fertilizer production, yet we literally flush these away every day. This project aims to rethink human urine as a “waste” by recycling it into many useful products (pee-cycling).

Read more.

Funder: Multiple

Duration: Ongoing

Team: Dyllon Randall, Caitlin Courtney


This project investigates whether fibre-rich biomass can be used to remediate degraded land in a way that is economically feasible, leading to enhanced economic complexity, the establishment of a fibre micro-industry, higher value-add in output and job creation. To do this, several environmental, chemical processing, economic and legal questions need to be answered. Read more

Duration: 2018 - 2019

Team: Susan TL Harrison


Using biofiltration cells for runoff treatment and urban food production: a test case

The aim of the project was to determine the performance of large biofiltration cells in treating contaminated runoff from a slum settlement and its reuse for urban food production in the water hub.

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Funder: Royal Society International collaboration

Duration: 2018 - 2021

Team: Kevin Winter, Kirsty Carden, Robert Huddy, Jessica Fell


This project aims to address the gap between practice and policy in the virtuous use of urban wastes for the remediation of urban soils.

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Project Objectives

  • Carry out research on ‘circular pedology’ (or Food-Energy-Water-based in-situ soil science), for quality assessment in the use of urban waste for soil remediation. This includes the assessment of the biological quality of the soil (pre- and post- amendments), of water for irrigation and of the vegetables grown in remediated soil and waters.
  • To organise trandisciplinary dialogues and develop policy briefs to address the lack of local policy frameworks that facilitate the agroecological use of water and waste in the bioremediation of urban damaged soils to render them fit for food production.

The project aims

  • To provide evidence of quality assessment for the agroecological remediation of urban damaged soils;
  • to raise global awareness around soil care and stewardship;
  • to gather an overview of existing best practices in soil remediation aligned to agroecological principles;
  • to provide guidance for public policy.


  • Four online transdisciplinary dialogues
  • Project report/Policy brief
  • Three documentaries
  • Concluding dissemination event
  • Two open access academic publications

The overall aim of the project is to conduct health assessment and identify the percentage exceedance of HIV/AIDS and the use of antiretroviral drugs in wastewater and surface waters against standard regulatory limit to determine the public health risk. The infomation from this studty will provide information for assessing the public health implications and non-point sources of ARVDs into aquatic system.


  1. To conduct a systemic literature reviews on reported levels and distribution of selected ARVDs in water bodies including waste water, surface water, drinking water and ground water in Africa. Currently studies have been conducted in South Africa, Kenya, Zambia, Nigeria, Ghana, Zimbabwe and Congo but other countries for which data become available during the review period will be included.
  2. To conduct health risks assessment on ARVDs in water resources using Weibull probabilistic risk assessment tools to estimates percentage exceedance in South Africa and in 2 other African countries with the highest and lowest ARVD levels.
  3. To forecast and model future scenarios of ARVDs including increased use and drought conditions in South Africa and the other 2 African countries.

Funder: Water Resource Commission

Duration: 2021 - 2023

Team: Bamidele O Fagbayigbo, Mohamed Aqiel Dalvie, Amber Abrams, Kirsty Carden, Charles Teta


Funder: Future Water

Duration: 2019 - ongoing

Team: Amber Abrams, Taherah Asmall (MPH student, co-supervised by A. Dalvie and A. Abrams)


Funder: Water Research Commission

Duration: 2017 - 2020

Team: Susan TL Harrison

Wastewater Biorefineries

Wastewater biorefineries (WWBR) are a response to the push towards resource recovery and the challenges encountered in that approach, while being concerned for the source of raw materials to supply the emerging bioeconomy. Read more


UKRI GCRF Water and Fire is a collaborative, interdisciplinary project which aims to work with local knowledge to better understand community and individual responses to climate-change induced crises in the Cape Flats area of South Africa. Funded by the UKRI GCRF, it involves a partnership between the University of Stirling, the Sustainable Livelihoods Foundation, the University of Cape Town, and the University of the Western Cape. Read more.

Read the 'From Zero to Hero: Champions of resilience during the Cape Town water crisis, beating Day Zero in Delft' article that was written by one of the post-docs working on the Water and Fire project, to share the impacts of 'Day Zero' on the residents of the Cape Flats.

Tsitsi. J. Mpofu-Mketwa,

Funder: UKRI GCR

Duration: 2020 - 2022

Team: Kirsty Carden, Amber Abrams


The aim of this project is to determine how a decentralised nature-based (NbS) resource recovery centre can support a transition toward a circular economy whereby critical natural resources and sustainable waste management are used to unlock multiple co-benefits and prioritises the inclusion of the urban poor. The study also looks at how to transition towards a more desirable outcome in which waste recovery is integrated into the Food, Energy and Water nexus.

The overall aim is addressed by attending to three main themes in the study:

a) An analysis of the efficiency of nature-based processes in treating contaminated surface water from an informal settlement and safe reuse for irrigating food gardens

b) a determination of the co-benefits of water reuse and resource recovery by incorporating stakeholder interests and perceptions

c) the development of indicators to inform an assessment tool for the purpose of guiding and directing governance and policy to achieve more circular economy in the Franschhoek valley.

The objectives are:

a) To analyse the performance of NbS in the treatment of contaminated water and the safe reuse of this water

b) To map stakeholder interests, agency, levels of involvement and potential to establish partnerships

c) To co-develop a more inclusive sustainable, circular economy using a framework and assessment tools to determine baseline conditions, processes, and targeted outcomes, and to test elements of the tool as proof of concept.

Read more

Funder: Royal Society International collaboration

Duration: 2019 - 2021

Team: Kevin Winter


International network of industry/civic society-led Urban Living Labs (ULL) in four urban regions – UK (Bristol), Netherlands (Rotterdam), South Africa (Cape Town) and Brazil (São Paulo) and START


This collaboration established the Making Waveforms short course series. Through experiential learning, demonstrations and a number of field trips (i.e. water sports, riverside soundwalk, etc.), participants in this course are asked to explore their relationships with water. They are paired with local Knowledge Keepers and are tasked with building meaningful connections over a period of five weeks, to create short, site-specific videos to raise awareness about the importance of healthy waterways.

Funder: Multiple sources

Duration: 2019 - ongoing

Team: Amber Abrams (UCT), Anna James (UCKAR), Sarah Van Borek (UCKAR)


We facilitate the widespread implementation of Water Sensitive Design in South Africa through knowledge sharing, capacity development and stakeholder engagement activities to create a water sensitive design community of practice.

Activities that form part of the Phase II programme are as follows:

* Water Sensitive Design & Planning (WSD&P) training events (3 per year) – specifically in locations outside of metropolitan areas. Participants are drawn from engineering, town planning, urban design, architecture / landscape architecture, stormwater management, development planning, and environmental management professions within the target towns. The overall objective of the training session is to build an understanding of the concepts and principles of WSD and Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) – and the planning for these – and to demonstrate how a vision and practice for Water Sensitivity can be developed in the southern African context. In this regard, the training facilitates and stimulates new ideas and innovation in the southern African context to expose participants to the benefits of WSD&P. Reporting on the training and follow-ups of the ‘lived experiences’ of participants, in order to gauge the impact of the training is thus an important aspect of the programme.

* Strengthening the WSD CoP, both in terms of its online presence and in expanding to new areas around the country, so that it has a stronger national footprint.

* Supporting postgraduate students through postgraduate scholarships, support for attending conferences, research assistance-ships etc.

Some training activities take place in collaboration with the Centre for Science and the Environment (CSE), India ( and i@Consulting (Pty) Ltd – with the Future Water Institute, UCT as the Project Lead. The training partnership with CSE India was established in 2017 with the specific aim of broadening the impact of the Water Sensitive Design capacity-building component of the CoP; in particular, by introducing practical elements on rainwater harvesting and decentralised wastewater treatment from a developing country perspective (further details of the impact of this collaborative training will be provided later in the report). CSE India is a public interest research and advocacy organisation based in New Delhi, set up to act as a Centre of Excellence in the area of sustainable urban water management. The collaboration with them enables the sharing of solutions with other countries in the developing world (including other African countries also) that engage in common struggles around meeting the water and wastewater treatment needs of urban and rural populations which are affordable and sustainable.

The inclusion of the consulting firm, i@Consulting, in the team was an attempt to expand the WSD training to include spatial planning aspects; specifically to share the findings of WRC Project K5/2587 ‘Securing water sustainability through innovative spatial planning and land use management tools: A case study of two local municipalities in South Africa’, which resulted in the development of a framework and guidelines for water sensitive spatial planning in South Africa.


Funder: Water Research Commission


Team: Kirsty Carden


Dr. Jenny Broadhurst