Water Research Commission (WRC)
About the Institute / Working Group
The WRC was established in terms of the Water Research Act (Act No 34 of 1971), following a period of serious water shortage. It was deemed to be of national importance to generate new knowledge and to promote the country’s water research purposefully, owing to the view held that water would be one of South Africa’s most limiting factors in the 21st century. In 1971 when the WRC was founded, water research and development (R&D) in South Africa was limited to a few institutions and the funding level inadequate. There was no research co-ordination and an apparent neglect of some key research fields. In addition, there was little strategic direction or leadership that would provide for the identification of priority areas or appropriate technology transfer. It was to address these issues, that the WRC was established.
Currently, South Africa is still under threat of a lack of sufficient water, while water quality and availability issues are becoming more acute. However, the country is much better prepared to deal with this problem owing to the WRC’s meaningful contribution to the development of the capacity of the water sector, the broadening of the country’s water-centred R&D base, and the WRC’s continued commitment to direct and fund research on critical issues.
In the future (short- to long-term), it is envisaged that South Africa’s water problems may intensify. Issues such as water for all, quality of life, and a sustainable environment are an essential part of the country’s national priorities and require considerable attention. In addition, implementation of the National Water Act of 1998 and the related national water strategy places considerable demand on water management and calls for research support. The role of South Africa in SADC and NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development), especially with regard to water resource and water supply and sanitation issues, poses new challenges and requires new initiatives which are within the mandate of the WRC.
Hence, the mandate which has been entrusted to the WRC includes:
- Promoting co-ordination, co-operation and communication in the area of water research and development
- Establishing water research needs and priorities
- Stimulating and funding water research according to priority
- Promoting effective transfer of information and technology
- Enhancing knowledge and capacity-building within the water sector.
The WRC recognises that adapting and responding to a changing, dynamic environment and providing South Africa with value for the money invested in water R&D, is an immense challenge. The strategy which has been developed and is continuously being refined by the WRC seeks to ensure that the organisation remains proactive in addressing society’s current and future needs for water-related problem-solving initiatives.
The essence of the strategy is, therefore, to be continuously relevant and effective in supporting both the creation of knowledge through R&D funding and the transfer and dissemination of the created knowledge. An appropriate, sustainable knowledge base that is effective in its ability to absorb new knowledge is a prerequisite for effective knowledge dissemination. The WRC, therefore, aims to develop and support a water-related knowledge base in South Africa which is both representative and sustainable, with all the necessary competencies and capacity vested in the corps of experts and practitioners within academia, science councils, other research organisations and government organisations (central, provincial and local) which serve the water sector.
The WRC provides the country with applied knowledge and water-related innovation, by continuously translating needs into research ideas and, in turn, transferring research results and disseminating knowledge and new technology-based products and processes to end-users. By supporting water-related innovation and its commercialisation, where applicable, the WRC seeks to provide further benefit for the country.
The WRC aligns itself with national priorities while helping to position the country in the African continent through the WRC's involvement in NEPAD.
In summary, the strategic direction of the WRC is focused on:
- An integrated approach to meeting South Africa's societal and water-sector R&D needs
- Provision of integrated solutions to invariably complex, inter-disciplinary problems
- Ongoing strategic identification of needs (short, medium and long-term needs, both explicit and implicit)
- Investment in knowledge creation, transfer and dissemination in a set of 5 Key Strategic Areas (KSAs).
Mission, Vision & Values
The WRC is a dynamic hub for water-centred knowledge, innovation and intellectual capital. We provide leadership for research and development through the support of knowledge creation, transfer and application. We engage stakeholders and partners in solving water-related problems which are critical to South Africa's sustainable development and economic growth, and are committed to promoting a better quality of life for all.
To be a globally recognised leader in providing innovative solutions for sustainable water management to meet the changing needs of society and of the environment.
To be a globally recognised leader in providing innovative solutions for sustainable water management to meet the changing needs of society and of the environment.
- Service orientation
- Care for people, society and the environment
- Fairness to all
- Dedication to quality
- Integrity and ethical behaviour
- Respect for human and individual rights
- Innovation and learning
Key Strategic Areas (KSA)
(KSA 1) Water Resource Management
Nothing is more fundamental to life than water. Not only is water a basic need, but adequate safe water underpins the nation’s health, economy, security, and ecology. The strategic challenge for the future is to ensure adequate quantity and quality of water to meet human and ecological needs in the face social inequities, competition among domestic, industrial-commercial, agricultural, and environmental uses.
In this new cycle’s plan, numerous interactions with stakeholders have resulted in effecting the following new aspects:
- Water resource challenges are not necessarily new but can be viewed in different combinations each year and with newly-defined priorities towards the achievement of the new 'Measurable Performance and Accountable Government Delivery Outcomes'. Competition over scarce or inequitably allocated resources can lead to tension and insecurities.
- Strategies for reducing demand, increasing efficiency, and creating new sources of water resources from desalination, fog harvesting, targeted recycling, reuse, artificial recharge, etc., can be viewed as part of Outcome 6: 'An efficient, competitive and responsive economic infrastructure network', which relates directly to water resource assessments, planning and development of infrastructure. Output 4: 'Maintenance and supply availability of our bulk water infrastructure', relates to these pertinent aspects.
- The fully-fledged thrust on water quality has been necessitated by the increasing challenges on ecological functioning and biodiversity of these resources, potentially threatening public health, agricultural and industrial production and ultimately quality of life.
- Water Resources and Climate Change is a new thrust which is aimed at dedicating financial and human resources to coordinating and promoting research in this pertinent and increasingly growing portfolio. This thrust is envisaged to make substantial contributions to the Conference of the Parties (COP) 17 in South Africa in 2011.
- The thrust dealing with water resource protection has redesigned its programmes to be complementary to the new Water Quality thrust.
As South Africa progresses into the 21st century, its water resources are likely to be subjected to much greater pressures than in the past. Projections of population increases mostly in urban areas, aging of the national water resource infrastructure, significant water quality problems in our estuaries and surface water resources and groundwater can have a significant impact. An example of one of the national issues of concern is acid mine drainage (AMD). Moreover, global environmental change, including climate change, will have further potential deleterious effects on systems, resources and society. Ensuring that the appropriate policies and overall institutional arrangements are in place will be essential in the passage to better environmental and public health, sustainable economic growth and ultimately quality of life.
The bulk of the research in this KSA is in support of Outcome 10: 'Environmental assets and natural resources that are well protect-ed and continually enhanced'. Output 1: 'Enhanced quality and quantity of water resources' is largely supported by Thrusts 1, 2 and 3. Thrust 4 is in support of Output 2: 'Reduced greenhouse-gas emissions, climate change impacts and improved air/atmospheric quality'.
The implementation of policies guiding related interventions has thus far yielded variable successes. This could be attributed to a number of reasons: the lack of appropriate capacity; the decline and fragmentation of data to be used in decision making supported by intelligent information systems (in support of the imminent decentralisation of decision making); and the increased impacts on ecosystems and their functioning due to the need for economic growth with limited capabilities for enforcement of penalties and incentives for compliance. The need for leadership in defining feasible organisational arrangements to ensure effective implementation of policies is heightened. There are specific roles for research in addressing the above challenges, mainly in commissioning relevant and appropriate research of an applied and fundamental nature in support of the above strategic outcomes.
In this KSA, it is acknowledged that the categorising of water issues in narrow thematic domains has the danger of not reflecting the inherent complexity of managing water resources in an integrated manner. The kinds of challenges mentioned above are typically not solved by narrowly-focused solutions. This is focused in the research portfolio which is aimed to reflect a considerable degree of integration between the different thrusts, without duplication.
People-centred policies that govern the management of water resources, reflect the need to explore innovations based on social theory and practice, in order to better understand stakeholders' collective role in better managing our water resources. The related research dealing with social sciences will need its fair share of investment in coordination with other related and specialised institutions.
Integration of sectors, disciplines and institutions must go hand-in-hand with coordination for action. Integration in water resource management requires, for example, integrating surface water and groundwater resources in assessment, planning, decision making, upstream and downstream issues, local, regional and international scales, water quantity and water quality, and data and information systems, at the appropriate temporal and spatial scales. The fundamental research challenge is that this is much easier said than done.
The main objective of research in this KSA is to provide the water resource management tools for addressing the above challenges, fundamentally driven by increasing water scarcity in the face of increasing and competing demands, all of which have social, economic and environmental consequences. This therefore necessitates proactive, innovative, scientific, technological and institutional experientially-based solutions. A better understanding of water resources and their management requires a more holistic conceptual framework encompassing regional-scale hydrologic systems, land-atmosphere interactions and the biogeochemical cycles that control contaminant transport. This unit operates in five thrusts, the management of which is specifically designed to meet this need. These thrusts inevitably have areas of overlap, which are described below in their respective scopes. Holistic approaches to water resource management are particularly pertinent in this area of research and must take account of all sources of water from quality, quantity and accessibility perspectives.
These objectives are achieved in support of the desired impacts on the lives and health of people, on the economy and on the environment, as articulated through the new Government performance outcomes.
In view of the above, the thrusts have been revised to allow for full articulation of water quality issues as well as climate change aspects. 'Resource protection' has been changed to 'source protection' in line with international practice.
(KSA 2) Water-Linked Ecosystems
Water-linked ecosystems are defined as instream (fully aquatic), riparian (dependent on water stored in the river banks and linked to the river) and water table-dependent (dependent on a water table, but not on surface water).
This KSA focuses on the protection and sustainable utilisation of the aquatic environment and biota (instream, riparian and groundwater). This includes the research needs around the international conventions on environmental management (e.g. biodiversity) as well as human needs from the aquatic environment (e.g. sustainable management for equitable ecosystem resource utilisation, recreation and ecotourism). Research undertaken within this KSA will continue to address the conservation of aquatic ecosystems in order to provide the knowledge necessary for their sustainable management and functioning. This will be done in terms of the national and international commitments ensuring that there is ongoing provision of goods and services which people rely on ecosystems to deliver. This research portfolio will contribute in the delivery of mainly two Government outcomes.
Specific outputs for each outcome, which are relevant to the scope of this KSA, will be addressed within the mandate of the WRC. Although special attention will be given to the Government outcomes, no major changes in strategic direction are envisaged and the research portfolio as presented in the previous year's strategy has been found to be sound and applicable.
The above will be achieved by developing technologies and methodologies, adaptive management processes and capacity to protect the resource and to sustain the flow of goods and services in a time of both demographic and climatic change in the Southern African context. Technologies and methodologies will be developed within this KSA to support the implementation of the national water policy to ensure protection and sustainable resource use and to enhance opportunities to deliver on Government outcomes.
In the light of international trends in research, the portfolio of research falling within the scope of and addressing this KSA will not change. The primary and secondary objectives of this KSA have been found to address future research need scenarios appropriately. The main objective is the provision of knowledge to enable good environmental governance so as to ensure the utilisation and sustainable management of water; and to develop an understanding of the ecological processes underlying the delivery of goods and services from the water-linked ecosystems in a water-scarce country during a time of demographic and climate change.
This will be achieved through the following (secondary) objectives which aim to:
- Develop an understanding of the ecological processes underlying the delivery of goods and services
- Develop the knowledge to sustainably manage, protect and utilise aquatic ecosystems
- Transfer the knowledge to appropriate end-users through the development of innovative tools and methods for effective knowledge dissemination. These will be developed in conjunction with other KSAs within the WRC.
- Strategically align research with the WRC mandate and Government outcomes and other priorities
- Promote good science and build capacity in both research and management to sustainably manage aquatic ecosystems.
Thrusts and programmes
As indicated above, the research portfolio presented here does not deviate materially from that presented in the 2010/11 plan. The thrust addressing Ecosystem Processes is progressing well and should be maintained. A general description of thrust and programme structure is presented below. New initiatives and current projects have been grouped into strategic thrusts and programmes which directly address the abovementioned objectives and are summarised as follows:
(KSA 3) Water Use and Waste Management
The Water Use and Waste Management KSA focuses mainly on the domestic, industrial and mining water sectors. It aims to proactively and effectively lead and support the advancement of technology, science, management and policies relevant to water supply, waste and effluent management, for these sectors. This KSA also supports studies on institutional and management issues, with special emphasis on the efficient functioning of water service institutions and their viability. Research on infrastructure for both water supply and sanitation is included. A further focus is on water supply and treatment technology serving the domestic (urban, rural, large and small systems) as well as the industrial/commercial and mining sectors of our economy. This KSA also focuses on waste and effluent as well as reuse technologies that can support the municipal, mining and industrial sectors and improve management in these sectors with the aim of improving productivity and supporting economic growth while minimising the negative effect on human and environmental health.
The provision and supply of water of adequate quality and quantity for economic and public health purposes remain continuous challenges. Water is a finite resource and, specifically in the context of South Africa, is becoming incrementally scarce. Managing water use and the waste released to the water environment is thus of paramount importance to ensure the sustainability of the resource and the activities relying on it. Water use and waste management in South Africa is consequently a key factor for social and economic growth, as well as for our environment. The entire way we think about and use water is thus an important factor in determining our future. In recent years the focus of the KSA has been on supporting the implementation of various pieces of legislation that impact on the provision of sustainable water services. The support was in the form of unpacking and understanding key elements within legislation and the impact on the water services sector. The result has been a bias towards developing guidelines and tools to assist new and emerging municipalities and politicians to understand their responsibilities, which also included repackaging information of a technical nature. In the process we have maintained a balance with dealing with cutting-edge technological advances and have been concentrating on their application and commercialisation. Developing innovative processes and technologies for water purification, reuse and treatment of wastewater from domestic to industrial and mining activities has been and is of even greater importance to our country, especially in the light of problems related to the deteriorating quality of our water resources and the rising costs and reliability of energy. Considering the emerging challenges, research in the KSA will continue to focus on greater innovation and development of cutting-edge technologies to respond to the issues of poor O&M, competency and capacity constraints, reuse, energy efficiency, climate change constraints, emerging contaminants and the aspect of drinking water quality.
The primary objective of this KSA is to provide knowledge that ensures reliable, affordable and efficient water use and waste management services to enhance the quality of life, and contribute to economic growth and improved public health. The secondary objectives are to:
- Improve the management of water services in both rural and urban areas
- Develop appropriate technologies for improving the quality and quantity of our water supplies for both domestic use and industrial applications
- Develop new approaches to manage and enhance hygiene and sanitation practices
- Provide appropriate, innovative and integrated solutions to water and waste management in the industrial and mining sectors
- Develop applications for improved treatment of wastewater and effluent and improve processes for enabling increased reuse thereof
- Improve health, economic and environmental conditions, while supporting the development of appropriate technologies and socially-focused management practices related to water and effluent management
The objectives of the KSA are orientated towards making a difference and impact in the areas of health, economy, environment and society. These are achieved through a portfolio of focused thrusts:
(KSA 4) Water Utilisation in Agriculture
The strategic focus in this KSA, as described in previous years, is on increasing the efficient use of water for production of food, fibre, fuel-wood and timber; ensuring sustainable water resource use; reducing poverty and increasing the wealth of people dependent on water-based agriculture. The needs and requirements of present and future generations of subsistence, emergent and commercial farmers is addressed through creation and application of water-efficient production technologies, models and information systems within the following interrelated sub-sectors of agriculture, namely:
- Irrigated agriculture
- Dry-land agriculture
- Woodlands and forestry
- Grasslands and livestock watering
- Aquaculture and fisheries
The challenge for applied research, knowledge creation and dissemination is to exploit opportunities and to provide solutions to practical problems which are experienced in the process of utilisation, development and protection of water resources, thereby contributing to productivity growth in agriculture.
The primary objective is to increase national and household food security and to improve the livelihoods of people on a farming, community and regional level through efficient and sustainable utilisation and development of water resources in agriculture.
The secondary objectives are to:
- Increase biological, technical and economic efficiency of water use
- Reduce poverty through water-based agricultural activities
- Increase profitability of water-based farming systems
- Ensure sustainable water resource use through protection and reclamation practices
Portfolios of current projects have been grouped into strategic thrusts and programmes which directly address the abovementioned objectives and are summarised as follows:
(KSA 5) Water-Centred Knowledge
The culture of knowledge management forms the basis of the WRC mission and is the focus of the WRC vision, that of becoming a true knowledge hub. This key strategic area (KSA) continues to strive to meet this objective by focusing on the development and protection of internal and external knowledge resources. The knowledge resources are both explicit, documented knowledge and tacit (subjective) knowledge. Management of knowledge in the WRC will therefore entail all the processes associated with the identification, sharing and creation of knowledge. This will require systems for the creation and maintenance of knowledge repositories, and for the support of the cultivation and facilitation of the sharing of knowledge and organisational learning. Internally, for the WRC to succeed in knowledge management, it has to view knowledge as an asset and to develop organisational norms and values, which support the creation, and sharing of knowledge, both internally as well as externally.
This KSA will continue to develop knowledge management capabilities, in terms of technology and fundamental business processes in order to contribute to the effectiveness of the WRC. The recent focus has been on the basic building blocks necessary to support the knowledge management objective of the WRC. The development and improvement of the Fund Management System (FMS) is one of these building blocks.
The KSA also strives to package information in a format that is understood by a broader audience including our major stakeholders. The development of technical and management project briefing notes is an example of a new innovative knowledge dissemination tool which was implemented over the past year.
Driven by external needs, the WRC continues to strive to improve its position as the dynamic hub for water-centred knowledge, innovation, and intellectual capital in South Africa, Africa and the developing world. The WRC continuously strives to strengthen its position in Africa and abroad.
Therefore, this KSA will focus on deriving value from its intangible assets, e.g. full utilisation of information systems to manage data, information and knowledge; full utilisation of a system that tracks who is using our knowledge products (technical reports); increasing the circulation of our publications; improving document and information management internally; and the management and/or administration of research projects.
The broad objectives include:
- To provide a strategic support function to the WRC as a whole and ensure effective knowledge management internally and externally
- To actively support the water sector in its strategic knowledge dissemination initiatives
- To manage the WRC-related intellectual property, media relationship and public relations/communication.
Internally focused objectives:
- To enhance the core processes of research support and management
- To improve access to relevant information
- To support the emergence of the culture of knowledge management
- To develop and maintain consistent data architecture to enable the flow of content through an FMS to support the core business of the organisation
- To support innovation and commercialisation through proper management and protection of the WRC's intellectual property portfolio.
Externally focused objectives:
- To participate and lead knowledge-dissemination initiatives including sharing and networking supported by functional, user-friendly research and water information systems
- To build and strengthen knowledge links with Africa and globally
- To continuously improve knowledge transfer and dissemination through feedback from users, dissemination of reports, guides, scientific and popular-scientific journals, and by providing support to other technology- transfer initiatives
- To develop state-of-the-art communications systems, to enable quick, meaningful contact between the WRC and the water sector / stakeholders
- To continuously develop better and more efficient knowledge dissemination tools and channels, especially to DWAF and Local Government
- To promote the WRC by engaging with all stakeholders and customers, either directly or through the media, and providing them with information about the WRC's activities, products and accomplishments
Impact Area: Water and Society
The Impact Area of water and society seeks to build under-standing of the social aspects and dynamics of water in society and the role water can play in achieving social transformation and justice. It does so in the context of deepening democratic practices, the extension of water services and redressing the wrongs of the past, as well as a commitment to ecological sustainability while facing growing pressure on water resources, the effects of climate change, HIV/AIDS and the daily realities of households living in poverty. It ensures that a social perspective is brought to bear on all aspects of water research. It is sensitive to multiple perspectives, including those of gender, class, disability, urban or rural, culture and religion. It aims to integrate a variety of methodologies to provide a holistic view. It emphasises respect for people’s rights and encourages participation in monitoring and decision-making as entrenched in the country’s constitution.
The Impact Area will support research which:
- Develops a greater understanding of social dynamics in the water sector, and people's needs for and views of water; encourages people's participation in water management and decisions about water
- Searches for ways of using water for transformation and social justice
- Enables water users at all scales and in different localities to meet the challenges of utilising water as a shared and scarce resource in a sustainable way
- Provides water services which are socially acceptable, affordable and available to all
- Ensures ready access to water for the poor and disadvantaged members of society
Impact Area: Water and Economy
In the SA context water is, first and foremost, treated as a common (social) good. Water is recognised as being essential for sustaining life and is a commodity to which people and the aquatic environment have a legally protected right. However, water is also recognised as an economic good, the use of which has a major impact on the creation of wealth and the well-being of people. Almost without exception, there is an increasing interest in assessing the economic value of water, using water as a catalyst for the generation of wealth and prosperity, and using economic instruments to increase efficiency and effect desired behavioural change among water users. The use of water tariffs to effect changes in water consumption and the use of waste discharge charges to internalise pollution costs and, in so doing, effect pollution reduction and desirable improvements in water quality, are examples of management options that are being implemented along with the selling of water use licences under specific circumstances. There is also recognition of the need to deal with complex water-economy systems such as catchments and to determine how sensitive socio-economic activities and their associated value are to the impacts of extreme events such as floods or droughts, or to gradual changes over the longer term, such as global climate change.
This Impact Area will continue to integrate the economic aspects of water-related investigations funded by the KSAs. It will also identify overarching issues that need to be addressed at a higher level of integration. Projects and activities under this Impact Area will determine the role of water in economic development, the use of economic instruments for improved water management and the economics of dealing with complex systems at the appropriate micro-, regional and national levels.
This Impact Area aims to be instrumental in integrating the economic aspects of water-related investigations that are under way within the WRC's KSAs, and in identifying and initiating further important investigations which may be needed in this domain, Water and the Economy.
The primary aim of the research portfolio facilitated through this Impact Area is to demonstrate the applicability of economic principles in the water field and to provide convincing evidence as well as sound knowledge and support to water management institutions and implementing authorities. The legal framework is already reasonably accommodating and stakeholders are therefore expected to be receptive to the knowledge generated.
Secondary objectives are to:
- Assess the role of water in economic development
- Use economic instruments for improved management of water
- Deal with complex water economy systems
Impact Area: Water and the Environment
This Impact Area promotes enhanced understanding of whole-ecosystem functioning in the context of the broader environment and its effects on water resources, and supports the development and application of good environmental governance systems. Activities within this Impact Area contribute to sustainable water resources management that meets the changing needs of society, by combining:
- Our understanding of good governance principles; with
- Our knowledge of environmental components (atmospheric, marine, terrestrial, aquatic, subterranean) and processes within the hydrological cycle.
The primary focus of the Impact Area will continue to be integrated into existing and new insights generated by research within and between the KSAs and by other institutions working in related fields. Although this Impact Area is characterised by integrating research at a high/meta-data analysis level, it is recognised that such research is only possible on the assumption that we have a sound foundation of appropriate basic research (and data) in place.
The objective of the Impact Area is to contribute to achieving a situation where our governance systems and our understanding of environmental processes and functioning within the hydrological cycle are aligned to support sustainable water management that meets the needs of society.
Impact Area: Water and Health
Water-related health forms a crucial and integral component of our daily quality of life. Health-related water research is undertaken with the aim of improving water quality and hygiene practices in order to save lives and reduce the cost and effort in treating diseases and their symptoms.
This Impact Area continues to play an essential role in providing an integrating framework for all the WRC's health-related research and development initiatives, identifying gaps and negotiating the initiation of gap-filling research in crucial areas. In fulfilling this role, the Impact Area assumes the responsibility for the structuring of a co-ordinated, needs-driven, dynamic health-related water research portfolio on behalf of the WRC, with contributing projects being funded and managed in the appropriate KSA's.
The focus is on water-linked health impacts associated with microbial or chemical contamination or transferred via water-associated vectors. The Impact Area aims to improve knowledge regarding the origin, survival and persistence of microbial, biological and chemical agents that may pollute water and may affect human health. The Impact Area supports the development and utilisation of methodologies to identify and quantify the occurrence of pathogens and contaminants in water, as well as risk assessment and epidemiological studies.
A holistic, multidisciplinary approach is followed in order to develop a comprehensive understanding of the origin/sources and spatial extent of pollution; water usage patterns; the effects of degraded water quality on human and animal health and the need for, and efficiency of, various water treatment options. The development of guidelines, protocols, manuals and pamphlets as tools to disseminate research findings is supported. The emphasis is on a pro-active approach to identify and address causes, rather than on a passive response to addressing symptoms. This approach should ensure research products that are relevant, user-friendly, practical and scientifically valid.
The primary objective of this Impact Area is to contribute to the protection of human health by investigating the sources, occurrence, persistence and control of water-related diseases and other water-related health problems.
Secondary objectives are to:
- Develop appropriate techniques, technologies and systems for monitoring of potentially harmful pollutants in water
- Obtain adequate understanding of the origin, survival and persistence of, and inter-relationships between, microbial, chemical and other biological and toxic pollutants in water
- Assess the impacts (actual and potential) of pollutants on human health by performing epidemiological investigations and developing health-risk assessment tools
- Investigate the effects of the environmental change on health (e.g. the impact of global warming on the spread of malaria; the link between climate variability and epidemics caused by water-borne diseases)
- Develop scientifically sound educational material on health, hygiene and the effects of and prevention of pollution, and the relationship between these provide guidance for appropriate communication, awareness-building and management strategies
- Contribute to the general health of animals and of the environment in pursuing all of the above objectives.
The Water Research Act makes provision for a Water Research Fund, which derives its income mainly from levies on water made available for various uses. Diversification of income sources is gaining momentum, with the main other source being income derived from research fund management on behalf of specific sponsors and donors.
The WRC's research portfolio has funds allocated to research in the following categories:
- Solicited research
- Non-solicited research
- Consultancies (solicited or non-solicited)
The WRC's investment in research and development (R&D) is mainly through research projects and programmes in the solicited and non-solicited categories. Research proposals are invited on an annual basis in these two categories only, in accordance with the WRC's annual funding cycle.
The annual ratio of solicited to non-solicited research funds may differ between KSAs and also within each KSA according to the changing strategic needs of the KSA and the WRC's overall objectives.
Consultancy research agreements are usually initiated from within the WRC. There is no formal call for proposals in this category.
The purpose of soliciting research is to proactively and strategically direct research and development into areas of greatest need or greatest potential impact. Solicited research mainly takes the form of relatively large projects or programmes which address medium to long-term needs. In the case of such large projects or programmes, which may extend over a period of several years, there is a preference for the research to be undertaken by consortia rather than individual organisations. Solicited research projects are mostly non-targeted, i.e. any organisation or consortium of organisations, which considers itself qualified, has an equal opportunity to put in a bid to undertake the research. It is conceivable, however, that some solicited research projects may, in exceptional circumstances, be targeted, i.e. assigned to specific research providers who may have exclusive skills to do the necessary research.
Calls for proposals for solicited research are issued annually for a given annual funding cycle and are accompanied by Terms of Reference (ToRs) to which proposers of research are required to adhere closely. The ToRs align the research with the strategic objectives of a particular Key Strategic Area (KSA) and are intended to be clear and specific.
Non-solicited research proposals provide the opportunity of accommodating, within the KSA thrust or preferred programme areas, promising and relevant research based on innovative thinking and with the potential to yield applicable and beneficial results. Proposed projects in this category are typically smaller than those in the category for solicited research; they extend over a period of one to three years and may be undertaken by a single organisation or by a number of collaborating organisations.
Calls for proposals for non-solicited research are issued annually for a given annual funding cycle. They are accompanied by clear guidelines for preparation of proposals. All proposals must adhere closely to the guidelines and should be submitted, via the Internet, after completing a prescribed electronic submission form.
Consultancies refer to short-term investigations (6-12 months maximum) which are crucial, urgent or exploit windows of opportunity and which have total budgets not exceeding R200 000. There is no annual call for proposals for consultancies - proposals should first be discussed with a research manager within the relevant KSA, who will carry out an initial evaluation. The proposal will then be further considered by a KSA team, and approved by the KSA Director
The WRC annually issues a call for proposals. This is usually published on the web during May of each year. The call for proposals is accompanied by a proposal cycle which will give the deadlines for submission of proposals. Information is also given on the budget allocations for the respective research focus areas.
Ad hoc calls for proposals for specific projects are also published from time to time and will be announced on the WRC website.
The Annual Reports of the Water Research Commission are available in Adobe pdf format. Since 2006, the individual sections are available for download and printing. Prior to that, the entire report is available for download and individual sections can be selected for printing. The links below open the Table of Contents for each report.
List of Annual Reports