Stellenbosch University (SU) joined thousands of people from Africa and across the world in a “World Walks for Water and Sanitation” event to raise awareness of each and everyone’s right to safe water.

Organised by the Stellenbosch University Water Institute and the NEPAD Southern African Network of Water Centres of Excellence (SANWATCE), more than 100 members of staff and students, including the executive mayor of Stellenbosch, Mr Conrad Sidego, walked the 2.4 km on Tuesday 19 March.

The SU Water Institute is a multidisciplinary research enterprise that draws on the expertise of a wide range of scientists across various disciplines at the university in an effort to address South Africa’s many water challenges. Hosted by SU, SANWATCE is an initiative of the African Union and consists of a consortium of universities and science councils to focus research activities on improving the conservation and use of the continent’s water resources.

Prof Eugene Cloete, Vice-rector (research and innovation) at SU, also joined the march and said a day like this is important to make people aware of the scarcity and importance of water: “A day like today is very important if you take into account the fact that 1.2 billion people in the world do not have access to safe drinking water. In South Africa, 1 out of every 5 children dies because of a water-related illness.”

There are also many innovative ways for South Africans to stop wasting water: “The average person here uses 55 000 litres per person per year just by flushing the toilet. That is equivalent to an average-sized swimming pool,” he said.

Mr Sidego said it is important that the municipality and university work together to address the community’s water challenges: “As a municipality we are primarily responsible for providing safe drinkable water. We need the help from these bright young scientists standing here in front of me to do just that,” he said.

According to Mr Nico Elema, SANWATCE regional programme manager, the event succeeded in raising awareness among SU staff and students about the importance of looking after a valuable resource like water.

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