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Award-winning event focuses on water and food security

  • Award-winning event focuses on water and food security

About the entity

Isle Utilities
Innovation consultancy specialising in the development and commercialisation of emerging technologies in the water & environmental sectors.


The water-energy-food security nexus was the focus of the latest Water Action Platform on tour webinar, which took place in South Africa on 17 June. The open webinar featured an innovative technology developed in Cape Town that harnesses wave power, and a presentation from coal sector hydrologist Ritva Muhlbauer on providing water and food security in a post-mining landscape.

Hosting the event for the first time, Dr Jo Burgess, senior technology consultant at Isle, took the opportunity to congratulate Isle founder Dr Piers Clark on a special citation at the International Water Association TV Awards for initiating the Water Action Platform.

“The Water Action Platform today serves more than 800 organisations, covering 92 countries. It is the water industry collaborating and working together at its best,” said Clark on accepting the IWA award.

“The water industry has really stepped up during the pandemic. Across the world we have been able to keep the taps flowing and toilets flushing. That’s an incredible achievement from the sector and I am delighted that the Water Action Platform has paid a part in that collaboration.”

Critical interdependency

Introducing the key theme of the webinar, Burgess said, “In recent years there has been growing understanding of the importance of the water-energy-food security nexus and how each is dependent on the other. The nexus approach identifies each of these systems as inherently interconnected and aims to identify the synergies and critical conflicts that need to be dealt with,” said Burgess.

Irrigation trial

Guest speaker on the Water Action Platform was Ritva Mühlbauer, a hydrologist from Thungela, a South African thermal coal producer and exporter. Mühlbauer highlighted a recent collaboration between the regulator, Thungela, Anglo American Coal and the community, which was designed to address water scarcity and food security.

Mining coal is one of the most water intensive methods of generating electricity and Thungela is investigating and implementing solutions to minimise the impact of its operations to local communities and the environment.

Mühlbauer explained how a recent irrigation trial at Thungela’s Mafube colliery in Mpumalanga, South Africa demonstrated that mining-impacted water could be used an agricultural water supply. The benefits included a reduction in pollution of natural water systems and a significant reduction in water treatment costs. Longer term benefits include increased water security during drought.

Making waves

The webinar also featured South African technology company Impact-Free Water’s wave energy reverse osmosis pump (WEROP), which uses the natural movement of the sea to pressurise and pump seawater for desalination and electrical power production.

The WEROP is a patented, locally built unit that sits on the seabed anywhere between 500m and 1km out to sea. Using wave power, the pump pushes water through an undersea pipe to the shore, where it is configured to:

  • Run through a reverse osmosis (RO) unit to produce fresh water
  • Run through a turbine to produce electricity
  • Be pumped at high volume for land-based seawater mariculture

The RO unit can be configured to produce water for irrigation, or high-quality tap water, or even ultra-high-quality water for bottling.

Impact-Free Water’s founder and chief executive Simon Wijnberg and business director Anton Berkovitz are now looking for partners to help with their scale up plan. To learn more, visit

A natural approach

Created by global technology and business consultancy Isle, the Water Action Platform is a global initiative that brings water companies together to share knowledge and innovation across the world. Since launching in 2020 the platform has gone from strength to strength, recently announcing three new sponsors: Strategic technology investors Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures (SAEV), Canadian consultancy WSP and French technology company Orege.

Next month the Water Action Platform tour will visit the Asia-Pacific region and the theme will be nature-based solutions, with guest host Yang Villa, Isle’s head of the Philippines. The webinar takes place on Thursday 22 July at 7.30am BST and 4.30pm BST (UTC+1). To sign up to receive an invitation click here.

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