School of Engineering


Research presented at the Symposium covered innovative work on water equity and aquatic ecosystems, flood studies and water supply, water reuse and sediment erosion, and water and sludge treatment.

Research Symposium Highlights Innovative Water Resources Research

A virtual research symposium hosted for the first-time by the Umgeni Water (UW) Chair in Water Resources Research and Innovation at UKZN attracted more than 70 delegates.

The participants heard about the UW-funded research undertaken by postgraduate students in UKZN’s School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Science, School of Chemistry and Physics, School of Engineering, and School of Life Sciences.

The programme covered the topics of water equity and aquatic ecosystems, flood studies and water supply, water reuse and sediment erosion, and water and sludge treatment, with a session for discussion on the research presented.

More than 20 students at master’s, PhD and postdoctoral levels presented their research taking place at UKZN’s Centre for Water Resources Research (CWRR), Centre for Functional BiodiversityWater, Sanitation and Hygiene Research and Development, (WASH R&D) Centre and various disciplines throughout the five Schools in the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science.

The wide range of research presented fell under the activities of the UW-funded Chair in Water Resources Management in the School of Engineering held by Professor Jeff Smithers, who is also the director of the CWRR. The UW Chair currently supports three postdoctoral researchers and 19 postgraduate students in various disciplines. In 2021 two PhD and six master’s students who graduated after being supervised by the Chair, have all since found employment.

The research group headed by Smithers focuses on high impact, innovative research tailored to the end user or water resource manager, and is building the capacity of water scientists, engineers and researchers who contribute to the water knowledge economy, and sustainable management of water resources with a focus on flood risk assessment.

The research plan for the UW Chair includes leadership and growth of a multi-institutional National Floods Studies Programme (NFSP); supporting the CWRR; contributing to teaching of the hydrology and agricultural engineering programmes; human capacity development through the supervision of postgraduate students; mentorship of young academics; driving research that meets industry needs, and promoting collaborative research nationally and internationally.

The symposium provided industry leaders at UW with feedback on research progress being made by postgraduate students funded by UW and created awareness at both UKZN and at UW of the Memorandum of Understanding between the two institutions. The symposium showcased multi-disciplinary research and promoted collaboration across fields and disciplines, and encouraged communication and collaboration between researchers, students and UW.

UW Manager of Research and Development Dr Wilson John welcomed delegates to the symposium. The Manager of Catchment Management at UW Ms Futhi Vilakazi complimented the UW Chair and research group for a constructive workshop and the opportunity to discuss research progress.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photographs: Supplied