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The Water Institute of South Africa (WISA) is getting ready to host the WISA 2020 Biennial Conference and Exhibition – the region’s biggest water conference, bringing together water sector professionals and other stakeholders from across the country and beyond.

Southern Africa’s water demands are on the rise, as a rapidly growing and urbanising population, changing lifestyles, and economic growth place increasing pressure on this resource. The result is a growing water crisis worsened by insufficient water infrastructure maintenance and investment, recurrent droughts and floods driven by climatic variation, inequities in access to services, deteriorating raw water quality, and a lack of skilled water practitioners.

WISA believes that in order to address these challenges, the sector needs to have #AllHandsOnDeck. The WISA 2020 Biennial Conference and Exhibition will, therefore, provide a platform for these issues to be discussed, solutions shared and decisions taken in a pledge to action. #AllHandsOnDeck calls for local and regional players to work together towards a sustainable water future, and WISA 2020 aims to speed up delivery and bring purposeful feedback to the leadership of South Africa.

A plan of action

By design, the conference programme carries a call to action message into its sub-themes. Based on the Department of Water and Sanitation’s National Water and Sanitation Master Plan, each sub-theme reads as a ‘to-do’ item:

  1. Reduce water demand and increase supply
  2. Manage the resource for a capable ecology
  3. Manage and monitor effective water and sanitation services and infrastructure
  4. Govern and regulate the sector
  5. Improve raw water quality and management
  6. Develop skills and technology innovations and disruptors

“Our past conferences have provided a platform to discuss problems and solutions facing the water and related sectors. Now is the time to create mechanisms and an enabling environment to set us on a path of implementation and impact.

“Water is everyone’s business and everyone should be involved in ensuring we have water security. This is now more important than ever, as we need to navigate issues of climate change, weather variability, demand growth, infrastructure needs and so forth,” says Shafick Adams, chair, local organising committee.

The bigger picture

The conference will also consider the broader impacts of water on society and the environment. With this in mind, WISA hopes to have as many as eight government departments on board, reflecting the integral role of water in all that we do, and the need to close the science-policy-implementation chasm.

“Water is an integral part of all sectors, and it is time to stop looking at it in isolation,” says Dr Lester Goldman, CEO, WISA. 

“In a country such as South Africa, the work done by the water sector has a major influence on the sustainability and success of our communities and our economy. For WISA, our biennial conference is a reflection of the vital role that we have to play, as factors such as climate change and an ever-burgeoning population have necessitated an adaptation to the new, water-constrained normal,” he continues.

WISA invites all water sector practitioners to attend the 2020 WISA Biennial Conference and Exhibition and play a role in getting #AllHandsOnDeck to turn around the Southern African water crisis.

WISA 2020 will be held in Johannesburg at the Sandton International Convention Centre, from 31 May to 4 June 2020. To learn more visit www.wisa2020.org.za.

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