Water sector. Prof Roland Schulze
ESI Africa

A broad future lies ahead for the water sector, which has become an increasingly important commodity, says Prof Roland Schulze, winner of the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award at African Utility Week.

“Nowadays, hydrologists and engineers work closely together and are integrated with town planners, agriculture, health, and environmental issues making it a wide and integrated field,” explains Schulze on why this field of study is growing in popularity.

Speaking on what it takes to attain such a high achievement – the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award at African Utility Week – Schulze mentions two mentors that taught him about scientific integrity, “to dig wider and deeper”.

Water sector research

Schulze pioneered formal scientific hydrological studies at South African universities by piloting the country’s first hydrology degree course in the early 1980s and then seeing the discipline grow from that of a single lecturer with a handful of students to a fully-fledged Centre for Water Resources Research.

He has initiated and been involved in national and international level hydrological research for the past 50 years, and in applied climate change research in the fields of agriculture and water for the past 30 years.

Climate change matters

In the late 1980s pre-climate change, “I was introduced by a former mentor to climate change and for the past three  decades, that has been my focus. Looking at climate change in an applied field, applied to water – when, where, how, and how we adapt etc. as well as in the field of agriculture”.

In terms of City of Cape Town’s current drought conditions, Schulze advises proactive planning together with national government.

“It’s been a big lesson to us, and Kwa-Zulu Natal [province] was also hit with severe drought,” states Schulze, adding: “I am not judging [the City of Cape Town]; however, we must learn to work more carefully with the water we have and be less wasteful. It’s the way of the future.”

2018 Lifetime Achievement Award at African Utility Week

“I’m proud not only for myself but also for the many colleagues and my family that have helped me achieve this,” Prof Schulze said after receiving his award.

“My vision for the water industry in general is that we become more efficient in the use of water, particularly in light of population increases and climate change, which might cause us to have less water than we are used to in the future. And that means efficiency in the main sectors that use a lot of water such as agriculture, industry and households.”