South Africa’s water resources are low. Annually, South Africa only receives approximately half of the global rainfall average, and global warming is still a major threat.  Central University of Technology, Free State’s (CUT) water resource expert, Professor Woyessa, offers valuable insight in how best to optimise South Africa’s water use in a more sustainable way. 

CUT’s water resource experts from the Sustainable Water Resources and Environment Research Group in the Department of Civil Engineering, Professor Woyessa and his team believe the answer to solving the country’s dwindling water supply lies in understanding the socio-hydrological dynamics and extreme hydrological events such as floods and drought which have become more frequent in the past decade.

Commenting on the research, Woyessa says, “In trying to understand the human-environment dynamics and its impact on water resources, a conceptual model that integrates the socio-economic and biophysical environment is being developed by the research group. Research in this area is still in its infancy but  some encouraging progress has already been made. The main aim of this modeling task is to understand the use of land and management practices, which have negative impacts on water resources. We believe that our research will benefit the local government departments by providing them with the necessary information for better decision-making.”

An extreme hydrological event monitoring software was developed by CUT lecturer OJ Gericke; it is a very user-friendly tool used for designing flood estimatation, which is essential for the design of hydraulic structures.

Gericke has presented this unique software at several workshops at the Universities of Stellenbosch and Pretoria, impressing their faculty heads with the multitude of applications it can be used for.

Commenting on the future direction of the research and application of the software, Woyessa indicates “As part of the strategic focus of the research group to grow its capacity and its roles in finding solutions to the ever present water shortage issue, an Adjunct Processor has been appointed in the Department of Civil Engineering for a period of two years to assist in the enhancement of the outcomes and to make a positive impact in the socio-economic development of the central region of South Africa.

“A Centre for Water and Environment is also being established, creating a platform for reseachers to network, interact and share knowledge with relevant stakeholders and peer instutions,” concludes Woyessa

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CUT is a leader in many technology fields ranging from learning programmes in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) a broad field in which CUT has about 45% of its enrolments, much higher than many other South African universities. Further, CUT’s research and innovation leadership in many areas, more especially in rapid prototyping and manufacturing is world class. The latter has been honoured by both the Medical Research Council (MRC) as part of its National Medical Device Platform and the National Research Foundation (NRF), with the latter having granted CUT a Chair in this area. Through its social and technological innovations CUT aims to contribute towards the social-economic development in the region as well as in the rest of South Africa and internationally.