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Completed Projects



Self-Sustaining Cleaning Technology for Safe Water Supply and Management in Rural African Areas.

This EU-funded research and innovation (RIA) project, focused on a major challenge in African countries: alone in the 16 sub-Saharan African countries collected under the umbrella of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) at least 40% of the population corresponding to more than 130 million people have no access to safe water. The SafeWaterAfrica project represented a consortium of European partners from Germany, Italy and Spain, providing European know-how on new technologies for water purification. Academic and industrial partners from South Africa and from Mozambique complete the project consortium by adding know-how on additional technologies and system integration to realize a solution adapted to local requirements.

The aim was to research and develop an autonomous and decentralized "Made in Africa" water treatment system for rural and periurban areas which is highly efficient in the degradation of harmful pollutants, at the same time very effective in killing microbiological contaminants and which is accepted by the members of rural communities.

Early warning systems research


This multi-disciplinary project involved the collaboration of researchers from various disciplines in the natural sciences, social sciences, and engineering at the University of Bath (UK) and the research groups of Prof Gideon Wolfaardt, Dr Edward Archer and Keira Tucker (Microbiology) and Dr Tobias Louw (Process Engineering) at Stellenbosch University. The aim was to identify microbial- and chemical biomarkers of exposure and effect in urban surface waters as well as wastewater settings. This urban water profiling approach produced spatiotemporal information on pathogens, metagenomics, analytical chemistry as well as hydrological modelling in the Eerste- and Plankenbrug river system and the Stellenbosch wastewater treatment works over a period of two years. This information can be used for ecological health risk assessment and machine learning for the prediction of future health- and chemical risk.



This annual surveillance program includes a seven-day profiling of illicit drugs and other pharmaceutical compounds at selected wastewater treatment works (WWTWs) in the Cape Town and Stellenbosch region using a wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) approach. The results of the annual survey are reported to the Monitoring Centre for Drug and Drug Addiction's Sewage CORe analysis group in Europe (SCORE). The SCORE network consists of 34 laboratories and evaluates the results from 114 WWTWs in 100 cities. The research group of Prof Gideon Wolfaardt (Microbiology) is currently the only African partner in this global network. This WBE approach can provide valuable information on communal use and abuse of chemical substances. The utility of this method was highlighted by the observation of a significant decline in recreational drug use at the onset of the national COVID-19 lockdown period, compared to the same period in the previous year. The program is coordinated and performed by Dr Edward Archer from the Department of Microbiology and analytical technical assistance provided by Prof Marietjie Stander and Mr Erick van Schalkwyk at the Stellenbosch University Central Analytical Facility (CAF) Mass Spectrometry Unit.




Pilot project – Mapping of sources, measures and environmental impacts of plastics in riverine and marine habitats (Berg river, RSA).

Gehør strategi og rådgivning, ecologIQ, the University of Oslo and the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa conducted a pilot project on plastic littering. The project, financed by the Norwegian Handelens Miljøfond aimed to map the main sources of plastic litter in aquatic environments in different geographical areas, outlining the scale of inputs, describing environmental impacts of plastic pollution, knowledge gaps and the need for future research projects, as well as identifying measures to mitigate plastic littering. In addition, a case-study for a full-scale research and clean-up project in one of the main river systems (Berg River) in the Western Cape in South Africa will be developed. Finally, the project contributed to strengthening the cooperation between the University of Oslo and the University of Stellenbosch.

The pilot project ran from March - November 2019. ​