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Protecting Water For Tomorrow: SA Crowns National Stockholm Junior Water Prize Winners

KZN twins beat eight other teams to win the South African Youth Water Prize, the national leg of the Stockholm Junior Water Prize and prepare to represent South Africa in Sweden this August.

  1. SA’s students celebrate National Youth Month by showing how they can tackle some of our most pressing water issues.
  2. Sanelisiwe and Sandisiwe Nhlozi from Buhlebemfundo Secondary School won the top prize for their awareness project “Drop-Drop”.
  3. Nine high school student teams participated in the South African chapter of the Stockholm Junior Water Prize (SJWP) on 7 June 2024, supported by Xylem Africa.

“It’s so humbling to see the talent showcased in this manner, and the commitment from the students,” Phumla Ngcumshe from the Department of Water and Sanitation.

Johannesburg (SA), 12 June 2024: Energy poverty, politics, social upliftment, equality, and growth—these are all important components of a healthy society. But they completely pale in comparison to the basic human right of access to water and sanitation. Everything else becomes moot when we can no longer rely on clean water sources. Water is the resource that underpins civilisation. Yet, this resource is under siege from overuse and pollution.

Fortunately, many people are not leaving water to its plight. They include the next generation of innovators and leaders.

During National Youth Month, nine provincial high school student teams participated in the South African Youth Water prize, the national leg of theSouth African chapter of the Stockholm Junior Water Prize (SJWP), supported by Xylem Africa. The winners will represent South Africa in August at this global competition, selected from dozens of projects across the country that vied for first place.

On Friday, 7 June 2024, Sanelisiwe and Sandisiwe Nhlozi, twins from Buhlebemfundo Secondary School won the top prize for their awareness project “Drop-Drop.” The 15-year-old’s secured their entry to the SJWP finals this August in Stockholm, Sweden, as well as a first-place trophy, R15 000 each, laptops, a R10 000 allowance, and bursaries.

The winning project competed against other excellent submissions, including Kimberley Technical High School’s second-place project (a fully automated drip irrigation system for various agricultural applications) and Middelburg Muslim School’s Acid Rain Purifying System, which won third place—netting prize money for every winning team.

The nine teams, each representing a province, rose through several local competition stages, first successfully passing through provincial events before gathering for the South African finals at the headquarters of the competition’s sponsor, Xylem Africa, in Kempton Park, Johannesburg, hosted in partnership with the event owner, the Department of Water & Sanitation.

The culmination of the regional and national competition resonates with Xylem Africa’s focus on helping the next generation of thinkers, leaders, and innovators build a better world.

“The old education system mostly prepared us for manual labour jobs—we never had such opportunities,” said Phumla Ngcumshe from the Department of Water and Sanitation. “It’s so humbling to see the talent showcased in this manner, and the commitment from the students.”

She said to the competing students, “You don’t know what the result will be when you come here, but you gave it your best. The talent, zeal and innovation shown here need to be commended. You are all excellent. Take this experience forward, as well as the adjudicators’ comments, and try to improve on your next projects. We are sure this is not the last time we’ll see some of you in this programme.”

Continuing SA’s SJWP representation

In August, South Africa’s winning team will head to Stockholm, Sweden, where they will compete against projects from over thirty countries at World Water Week. The Stockholm Junior Water Prize is the world’s most prestigious award presented to a high school student for a water research project. Founded in 1997 by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), it rates projects on their relevance, methodology, subject knowledge, practical skills, creativity, and presentation.

Local students have competed in the prize before. In 2003, Claire Reid became the first South African to win the prize, demonstrating an innovative technique for planting and germinating seeds in water-scarce areas. In 2005, Pontso Moletsane, Motebele Moshodi, and Sechaba Ramabenyane won the Stockholm Junior Water Prize for showing how to minimise water in small-scale irrigation with an electric soil humidity sensor.

Xylem Africa has sponsored and supported local SJWP activities since 2022, creating opportunities for South African students to explore water solutions that can help our water-scarce environment.

“South Africa might enjoy regular rainfall, yet we are a dry country with many regions under water pressure,” says Chetan Mistry, Xylem Africa’s Strategy and Marketing Manager. “Rapid urban and industry growth, mining, and agriculture are also adding substantial pressure to our water ecosystems, and our rural areas still struggle to enjoy reliable access to potable water. South Africa is a resource-rich country, but we don’t do enough to protect our most precious resource, water. Fortunately, many people are, including these students. Supporting SA’s chapter of the Stockholm Junior Water Prize allows us to amplify their efforts and ambitions. We are very proud of these students and if we could, we’d declare all of them as winners!”

Competing teams presented their projects to a panel of judges. They toured Xylem Africa’s facilities, seeing first-hand how Xylem promotes smart water management through its expert staff, innovative products and solutions, and broad network of market-leading partners. The student teams also engaged with Xylem’s subject-matter experts and learn first-hand about careers in the water sector

The next stop for the winning team is the SJWP international finals in Stockholm, 24-29 August, and the 2024 winners will receive their awards from Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden on 27 August.

Xylem Africa and the Department of Water & Sanitation wish the South African team good luck and congratulate all the regional and national competition participants. Together, we can solve water!