While many South Africans in rural areas have no access to safe drinking water, climate change has had major effects on drought-stricken regions such as the Western Cape and the agricultural sector.

The global shift into the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) will see the emergence of new methods and technologies that will address South Africa’s water crisis.

The University of Johannesburg (UJ) on Wednesday held a workshop based on a bilateral partnership between South Africa and France to provide a platform for stakeholders interested in improving the quality of water and air in South Africa.

The workshop, themed “New frontiers in separation processes and membranes development”, was attended by academics and practitioners in the science field who presented innovative solutions to South Africa’s challenges with water quality in urban areas.

The experts highlighted the need to treat water using membrane technologies to make it safe for drinking and re-use. They further stated methods such as the treatment of brine caused by industrial processes in order to recover drinking water.

Associate Professor of Chemical Sciences at UJ, Richard Moutloali, says the workshop explores various processes including decentralised technologies that will be easily pursued and distributed to communities.

“The idea started when we met at a membranes conference and thought it best to have a workshop which includes stakeholders such a mining and technology companies as well as universities in rural areas,” says Moutloali.

According to the experts, the importance of water treatment and re-use is increasing because of population growth and the demand for clean water.

He urges South Africans to re-use water as much as possible, preserving clean water for internal consumption.

Associate Professor of Chemical Sciences at UJ, Philiswa Nomngongo, says the initiative for the workshop was to address various issues such as water pollution and give direct solutions to those challenges.

“The issue of water in South Africa reflects inequality in the country. Rural areas don’t have the same water quality as urban areas. This dialogue also gives solutions to how we can bring these water treatment technologies to rural areas,” says Nomngongo.

The workshop will take place until Friday and includes panels and discussion on air pollution.