We draw together researchers from diverse fields to engage with water-related issues and conduct cross-cutting research around four intersecting themes.

Water Sensitive Design

Water Sensitive Design promotes water efficiency, reuse and recycling, as well as the (re)design of settlements to include blue-green infrastructure, sustainable drainage systems, alternative water resources and water conservation strategies.

We support the enhancement and integration of Water Sensitive Design by experimenting with nature-based solutions, primarily at the Water Hub in Franschhoek, South Africa; designing and planning Water Sensitive Cities; promoting collaborative institutional, governance and policy environments; and building capacity across the water sector.

Integrated water resource management

Integrated water resource management considers the competing needs of people, the environment, and industry, with the aim of providing ‘fit-for-purpose’ water suitable for a range of uses. 

We contribute to the understanding of integrated water resource management by investigating the diversification, efficiency, recovery and reuse of water, as well as linkages and dependencies between sectors in the water-energy-food nexus. We focus on innovation, designing cost-effective water monitoring systems, and seeking mutually-beneficial partnership agreements – including between governments and communities in mining contexts. 

Resource recovery for the circular economy

Addressing water security and quality in the long term requires a shift from the widely-prevalent linear water management models, to more circular approaches. 

By developing a new generation of engineering tools, and using simulations, scenario analyses, and experimentation, we evaluate how different resource recovery approaches can contribute towards a circular, sustainable economy that simultaneously generates ‘fit-for-purpose’ water and value-added products from diverse forms of waste, including urine.

Addressing diverse relations and values around water

Often water resource management is dominated by scientific and technological approaches, and other ways of knowing are seldom considered. Yet, a focus on people, and the drivers of their behaviour, supports debate and promotes environmental and social justice. 

Through all of our research we strive to understand the variety of ways that people interact with and value water. We also explore people's attitudes and behaviours in relation to water, making use of arts-based approaches, participant observation to develop ethnographic explorations, and other innovative methods. Based on our findings, and through an understanding and appreciation of cultural practices and social networks, we identify collaborative ways to encourage citizens to engage with water sensitive behaviour.