For Water For Life New Episode: Imitating nature to reimagine how we use water
Water is a complex topic worldwide, but particularly in a water-scarce and unequal country like South Africa. Our towns and cities are facing increasingly severe water shortages. While some of these problems relate to ageing infrastructure and municipalities that are unable to keep up with rapid urbanisation, most are due to the climate crisis, desertification and the collapse of the delicate ecological systems which make water and life possible (that we too often take for granted). Underpinning these problems and the solutions for them is our relationship with water, and understanding how our smallest interactions with this precious resource can ripple out into our collective demise or salvation.
For Water For Life – The water podcast is back for a second season, with a new episode landing every two weeks. Through conversations with scientists, hydrologists, biodiversity experts, philosophers, divers, architects and activists, hosts Gugulethu Mhlungu and Michelle Constant explore how water moves through the urban landscape. We follow the extraordinary course every single drop of water takes from the ocean to our bodies and then back again. We dive into the impact urbanisation, consumption and the climate crises have had on our fragile water systems, particularly in South Africa’s biggest cities.
This season’s journey starts off at a sacred wetland in the Cape Flats, which has cultural and spiritual ties not just to the community that lives there today, but to ancient inhabitants of southern Africa: the Khoi.
We revisit the water cycle and the importance of all the systems that contribute to it. We look at the future of South Africa’s water security and question the roles that groundwater and desalination could play. And we take a cosmic journey to discover the origins of water on our planet, from science to indigenous knowledge.
We travel to the cities to understand the impact of our concrete jungles on our water systems and look at the relationship between concrete and water in the urban landscape. We discuss the role of urban planning and dig into the complexities of engineering a city’s water. Wastewater, greywater, potable water – how is our dirty water processed and treated, and how does our drinking water make its way to our taps?
And if we don’t have clean, healthy water piped directly to our homes and schools, how does that impact our health and social security? We speak to those working to democratise access to water across South Africa.
Are smart cities in our immediate future? From rainwater harvesting to smart water meters and Internet of Things devices, we discuss some of the latest innovations that could change our relationship with the water.
And finally, we follow the journey of our water out to sea, and speak to activists and deep-sea divers fighting to defend the future of the pale blue dot and the life-giving water on it.
You can listen to the JoJo #ForWaterForLife podcast on the JoJo website, and through most other podcast platforms. Episodes release every two weeks.
NEW EPISODE 24: Imitating nature to reimagine how we use water
Biomimicry, or innovation inspired by nature, has given us technologies and inventions such as the aeroplane, sonar, and even velcro. The Namib Desert Beetle is a fascinating creature that prompted architect and designer Shaakira Jassat of Studio Sway to start thinking differently about the relationship between buildings in urban environments and water. This particular beetle has a unique ability to harvest fog from its arid surroundings, making it a completely self-sustaining organism. Imagine if our buildings could do the same?
Using innovative practice, and biomimicry, Shaakira has imitated nature to reimagine how we use and increase access to water. Her latest project, Aquatecture, is a revolutionary new technology that harvests rainwater and moisture from the atmosphere.
EPISODE 23: Testing the waters
KwaZulu-Natal is one of South Africa’s most water-rich provinces, with sparkling wetlands, dams and rivers that are home to a vibrant array of wildlife, and a hub of water sports like the Midmar Mile and Dusi Canoe Marathon. The uMngeni River and its tributaries (like the Msunduzi River) are of particular importance, supplying water to more than two-fifths of the province. The river is also unfortunately one of the country’s dirtiest. But this is something that Liz Taylor and Enviro Champ Nompumelelo Bhengu of the Duzi-Umngeni Conservation Trust (DUCT) in Howick are working hard to change. Nompumelelo is a paid citizen scientist; the eyes, ears and voice of the river, championing its health to her community and local authorities. She, like many other DUCT Enviro Champs, has been trained to monitor and record the health of the river three times a day, while also keeping an eye on illegal dumping sites, leaking sewers and burst drinking water pipes. Together, Nompumelelo and Liz are seeing real change being enacted through their work.
Episode 22 – Planet Ocean
Humans have an ancient relationship with water. When we free-dive, and hold our breath to journey deep into the ocean, our mammalian dive response kicks in. This is the same biological set of automatic reactions that allow whales, dolphins and seals to travel for kilometers underwater before needing to breach.
As freedivers, Zandile Ndhlovu and Hanli Prinsloo have discovered a whole world just below the surface, with its own orchestra of sounds and rhythm of being. They both deeply believe that water can heal and freediving can transform people’s lives. Zandile is the founder of the Black Mermaid Foundation. And Hanli is the founder of the I Am Water Foundation. Both projects aim to get a diverse group of young people from underserved, low-income communities involved in the ocean – swimming, diving and connecting.
Episode 21 – Water in the information age
The information age, and the internet in particular, has fundamentally shaped how we live our lives today. And IoT, or the Internet of Things, pushes the information we can draw from the world around us, even further. Dr Kevin Winter is part of a team at the Future Water Institute that has been using IoT to capture data that will help us understand and monitor the changes occurring across South Africa’s water bodies. With this technology, they can immediately detect threats (like pollutants) to our water and instantly alert the correct department or officials. And there are so many other possibilities. This is water in the information age!
Episode 20 – A brief history of water on Planet Earth
In this episode of For Water For Life, hosts Gugulethu Mhlungu and Michelle Constant facilitate a conversation that’s a little different than usual. With the help of Thato Tshukudu (who is also known as Gogo Mthunzi or Mkhulu Manzini), movement practitioner Tekano Phambani, Professor Anthony Turton and journalist Sean Christie, they’ll be taking you on a cosmic – and maybe even slightly chaotic – journey of water on Planet Earth. It’s a grand history of the universe that aims to spark imaginations.
From Anthony, we learn the science behind where water comes from and how it found its way onto our planet, while Thato and Tekano explore our deep energetic connection with nature and water – and thus the value of listening to it, caring for it and protecting it. Mixing facts and a deep curiosity about water, Sean discusses our historical relationships with water in South Africa and our constant desire to be near it.
Episode 19 – Running out of water
Does the answer to South Africa’s water shortage problems lie in mining the salt from our rivers?
There aren’t many people more knowledgeable (or passionate) about South Africa’s natural and man-made freshwater resources than Professor Anthony Turton. He’s dedicated decades to researching our water, and is currently involved in the development and rollout of cutting-edge technologies with a focus of solving our water issues. And he’s found a potential solution to both our economic and water woes: mining our increasingly saline rivers for salt, creating jobs and producing potable water.
Water is a vital economic enabler, and for Anthony, investing in new technologies and fixing up the water sector is paramount for job creation and moving towards a circular beneficiation economy.
Episode 18 – The life of a river
Through his obsessive search for the source of Johannesburg’s Jukskei River, journalist Sean Christie has journeyed below the city and dug up some fascinating, and at times squalid, insights into this river and how the city above it functions. For example, did you know that water has an isotopic signature, so hydrologists can trace where the water in your trap really comes from (in Johannesburg, the answer is likely Lesotho)? Or that there is a phenomenon known as sewage mining, which causes havoc in an already outdated system?
Episode 17 – Water and security
The South African Constitution is clear: “Everyone has the right to have access to sufficient food and water.” But how that plays out in practice is what Elizabeth Biney of Equal Education is passionate about changing. Equal Education is a movement of learners, parents, post-school youth, teachers and community members who are essentially agitating the government for quality and equal education. And they do so through advocacy and research, strategic litigation and youth organising. A key tenet of this is access to water and safe sanitation, which hundreds of schools around the country are still unable to provide their learners.
Episode 16 – Building better cities
The relationship between water and how we build our cities is complex. Water is integral to so many building processes; it is used in excessive amounts when we pour concrete and in steel manufacturing, and our cities need to be built in harmony with water to ensure proper drainage and flow.
Afua Wilcox is an architect, currently working on a PhD on affordable housing in Johannesburg’s historic Alexandra township. For Afua, sustainable architecture is about rebuilding our relationship with nature and climate, creating architecture that works in sync with our environment, and a sensitivity to materials.
Episode 15 – Water doesn’t come from a tap
Eunice Ubomba-Jaswa and Yazeed van Wyk are researchers with the Water Research Commission, a South African state entity that wants to find innovative water solutions through research and development, and to shape policy.
Yazeed and Eunice are experts on all things water. From the hydrological cycle to the complex process of how water finds its way from the rivers, into our cities’ municipal systems, into our taps, and where it goes after. Through their work, they have dug up the answers to interesting and innovative questions for the future of our water, such as whether groundwater could be a potential untapped water source, and have brought concerns around infrastructure, pollution and wastewater treatment to light.
Episode 14 – Defending the pale blue dot
Lewis Pugh is the United Nations Patron of the Oceans. As an endurance swimmer, he has completed a long-distance swim in every ocean of the world and has pioneered more swims around famous landmarks than any other person in history. But these extreme swims aren’t simply athletic feats, each time he submerges himself into the freezing cold water, he highlights the melting of the Arctic sea ice and the impact the reduced water supply and climate change will have on world peace.
Also defending our planet, 10-year-old eco-warrior and eco-artist Romario Valentine has organised 180 beach clean-ups, planted 455 trees and helped 900 endangered birds. This dedicated work recently saw him named a 2021 International Young Eco-Hero. Romario is particularly passionate about orcas, turtles, the Knysna turaco, and ensuring that children don’t go hungry.
#ListenToTheWater and win!
Have you listened to the first episode of the #ForWaterForLife podcast yet? Not only is the podcast full of inspiring stories from all corners of the country, it could also teach you a thing or two. Find us on Facebook or Instagram for competition details and to enter. You could win yourself R10 000 in cash!
You must be following JoJo on Facebook or Instagram to enter. Competition ends 31 January 2022. DM/MC
For Water For Life – The water podcast is back with a second season to tell more extraordinary stories of ordinary people who have made it their life’s mission to preserve, purify and protect South Africa’s water resources. This award-winning podcast series is made possible by JoJo – for water, for life.