Student - June 7, 2012

Water competition in South Africa

They were in the middle of their final project when they decided to go to South Africa for three weeks. For a competition with case studies, pitches and a large conference. In early May, VHL students Fleur van den Bos and Louise Klingen participated in the Wetskills Challenge in Cape Town.

In five small groups, the participants worked on actual cases related to Dutch water companies in South Africa. Fleur and Louise were placed in different teams, and spent a week working on their case. The result was a poster and a 100-second pitch that they had to present at a large conference. Fleur worked on a commission for Groot Salland Water Board. 'Many undesirable plants grow around certain rivers. It costs money to keep these areas clear and to remove the waste. We had to think of a way to turn this into a money-making situation.'
Eventually, the team came up with 'dry digestion'. The waste is deposited in a concrete storage facility and left there to be digested by bacteria. At the same time, biogas is produced that the local people can use to generate electricity. The plant remains can be used as compost. Louise worked for the Dutch NGO Wegwijs on ways to reduce household water wastage.
 In the competitive element of Wetskills, five teams competed for the prize. Neither Fleur nor Louise came out top but that's neither here nor there to them. What counts more is the client's opinion. The Water Board was quite amazed by the new ideas proposed by Fleur's group. 'One of the supervisors will be pitching the idea in the Netherlands. I've no idea where this will lead, but it shows that we are on to something.'  Louise was struck by how openly the companies treated the students. 'What really surprised me was that they actually sought us out to make the first contact. It is usually the other way round.'