Strengthening Water Quality Research, Development and Innovation among IORA Member States

Water Quality refers to the chemical, physical and biological characteristics of water, based on the intended standard of its intended use such as drinking, swimming, washing, etc. The water quality of a system or particular area can be determined by the local geology, ecosystem as well as interactions such as washing, sewage dispersion, overuse, industrial pollution, and use for drinking.

In the water sector, water quality tends to be more focused on treated potable water, industrial and domestic use, and environmental/ ecosystem (restoration). Water quality can however be more complex and can refer to the extent of the untreated water with microorganisms such as protozoa, viruses, bacteria, etc. Additionally, water quality can refer to the availability of inorganic elements such as metals and salts and organic chemicals from chemicals such as petroleum, herbicides, radioactive contaminants, and pesticides found in water. In recent times, water quality has included new areas of concern such as emerging contaminants, which refers to synthetic or naturally occurring chemicals or any microorganisms that are not commonly monitored in the environment but have the potential to enter the environment and cause known or suspected adverse ecological and/or human health effects (Rosenfeld., F.E, and Feng., L. 2011).

The key issue with emerging contaminants is that the environmental and human toxicology of most of these compounds have not been studied and most are not or cannot be tested in municipal water systems, thus posing a danger to the health of society. Lastly, when some of these contaminants pass through drinking water treatment systems, by-products are generated whose chemical properties are to be determined.  Noting that billions of people across the world still don’t have proper access to water and the United Nations has declared that every citizen has the right to access quality water, brings another complexity to the rights of citizens to access to water.

It is, therefore, clear that water quality and access thereof is a key issue for all countries in the world, including those in the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) inter-governmental organisation. The IORA was formed in 1997, to foster regional cooperation. To date, the IORA has a total of 23 member states and 10 dialogue partners. Like many countries, the IORA member states also have water quality as one of their key focus areas, concerning RDI in the areas of emerging contaminants, water provision, monitoring, and Water Sanitation and Health (WASH).  

The Aim of the Workshop

The workshop aims to strengthen cooperation amongst the IORA member states to improve water quality RDI and subsequent provision to their respective inhabitants. The workshop will form part of a series of workshops, with the aims of (1) focusing on ways to improve cooperation and sharing the current RDI work done by the IORA countries on water quality and identifying challenges faced by these countries concerning water quality, and (2) focusing on potential interventions to improve quality RDI amongst these countries. This workshop is brought on the background of the IORA Working Group on Science Technology and Innovation (WGSTI) and the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the South African Water Research Commission (WRC) and the IORA Regional Centre for Science Technology Transfer (RCSTT) and in partnership with Human Right 2 Water (HR2W), South African Local Government Association (SALGA) and South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC).

Target Audience: Water Services Institutions, Academia/Knowledge, and Solution/Innovators providers, Local and District Government, Technology and Innovation Funders and Investors, business partners, and the IORA member states and dialogue partners.

Facilitators: Dr Eunice Ubomba-Jaswa: Research Manager, Water Quality, WRC, and Tiyani Chauke, International Projects Manager, WRC

Opening Remarks: Mr Raj Kumar Sharma, Chair of IORA WGSTI.

Keynote Address: The importance of international cooperation in improving water quality and its provision, given by The Head of the Water Research Institute of Iran

Panellists: Presentation of water quality RDI status and challenges amongst the IORA Member states and Dialogue Partners, including HR2W (Amanda Loeffen) on ‘The monitoring of water quality as a criteria of the human right’.

Closing Remarks: Dr Mamohloding Tlhagale, Head of international and stakeholder Engagement, WRC