The 8th International Young Water Professionals Conference (IYWPC), was held in South Africa from the 10-13 December 2017. According to the President of the International Water Association, the IYWPC series has become the ‘must attend event’ for young water professionals globally.
450 participants from 52 countries gathered at the Cape Town International Convention Centre with one vision in mind: ‘Building Leaders, Making Impact”. Three IWSN-funded MPhil Integrated Water Management students attended the conference and presented the findings of their research. Sindy Mthimkulu gave a paper presentation on ‘the water footprint concept as an adaptive measure to cope with water shortages in sugar production in Swaziland’, whilst Elsah Dhliwayo and Tinashe Rimau produced posters and took part in the ‘two minute, one slide’ thesis competition. The students’ presentations were very well received and they both had productive conversations with many international participants.
The students, together with Linda Downsborough and Machaya Chomba, and in collaboration with Oregon State University, also ran a two-hour workshop on water security and cultural identity using the River Basin Game as a tool to create dialogue. The game was used to simulate the uMngeni River Basin, a key focus of IWSN research in South Africa, depicting relevant land uses such as commercial forestry, dairy farming, sugar cane agriculture, urban residential and the ecosystem. Forty-five participants attended the workshop, which was held after the opening plenary session of the conference.
The conference provided multiple networking events, as well as hands-on and skills-based workshops designed to build leadership capacity among young water professionals. The students had the opportunity of meeting the honourable Deputy Minister of Water and Sanitation after the opening plenary in which she offered her full support and commitment to young water professionals leading the way in South Africa and across the world.
Host city Cape Town is facing one of the worst drought periods in memory and is rapidly facing the prospect of running out of water (on ‘Day Zero’). In the past, Cape Town has shared many award winning examples of effective and efficient water use, water conservation, demand management, as well as boasting a world class storm water harvesting system. While these interventions have surely slowed the onset of Day Zero, the drought crisis was at the forefront of most discussions. Technical tours provided an opportunity for participants to explore Cape Town’s water issues on the ground. While the effects of the drought are not immediately visible, as small amounts of rain have kept Cape Town looking green, they were able to interact and engage with people who shared their stories of how the drought was affecting them.
The conference provided a wonderful platform for future collaborations, and we intend to explore the possibility of writing a paper with Oregon State University, who also have a very strong focus on water governance and transboundary issues. Moreover, our students have been approached by international journals to publish the papers and results they presented at the conference. All in all: conference theme accepted and delivered. The next international event will be in two years time in Canada.