The finals of AQUALIBRIUM, the exciting SAICE-WRC Schools Water Schools Competition 2013 was held at the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre in Newtown, Johannesburg on Friday 16 August 2013. This worthwhile competition never fails to excite the teams, spectators and everybody involved!

The launch of the new streamlined equipment, developed by Professor Kobus van Zyl of the University of Cape Town and ‘creator’ of the water distribution network concept for the competition, saw the curbing of water losses, as experienced by many municipalities in real life, during this competition.

The 2013 champions with 60 penalty points conceded were the team from the Eqinisweni Secondary School from Ivory Park, Midrand with team members Thulani Ndlovu, Rudzani Mnisi and Tyson Chuma. In second place was Diamantveld Hoërskool from Kimberley with 80 penalty points. The team consisted of Pieter van Zyl, Jannes Wessels and Philip Swanepoel. Hoërskool DF Malan from Cape Town shared the third prize with Mfesane Senior Secondary School in Port Elizabeth (Nelson Mandela Bay) with 90 penalty points each. The Hoërskool DF Malan team was Jacobus I Wüst, Reinhardt Husselmann  and Jacobus M Louw with Mfesane Senior Secondary School’s team Siyabonga Gaba, Nolusindiso Mdodana and Thabo Petse. The three winning teams shared the prize-money of just more than R17 000-00.


This year the winners of the regional competitions come to Johannesburg from as far as Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Buffalo City (East London), Pietermaritzburg, Richards Bay, Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth), Kimberley and Mahikeng, to battle the local winners for top honours. Many of the teams were flown to Johannesburg and accommodated in a good hotel – an experience that these young people and some of the educators will never forget! For most, this is a first experience of flying and visiting the ‘big city’. Without the major sponsorship of the Water Research Commission (WRC), Marley PipeSystems, SMEC/VelaVKE, the Water Institute of Southern Africa, Prentec and Bigen Africa this event would of course, not be possible.

As a direct result of this competition there are presently three students studying civil engineering. These young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are determined to go MAD, i.e. Make A Difference in their communities.  We just have to continue with these kinds of projects in order to make a difference to the scarce skills situation and the lives of many people!

This year AQUALIBRIUM, the initiative, had the honour of being chosen as one of four finalists in the National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF) and BHP Billiton Awards, the oldest and most prestigious in South Africa, in the category where an individual or team is recognised for their outstanding contribution to science, engineering, technology and innovation (SETI) through science communication and through creating science awareness. The standard is extremely high – this year only twelve awards were made across the science, engineering and technology spectrum. Making it to the NSTF-BHP Billiton Awards as a finalist is therefore an exceptional achievement. The SAICE team comprises Prof Kobus van Zyl from UCT, Marie Ashpole and Fridah Mahlangu from SAICE National Office.


Both the South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE) and Rand Water celebrated a hundred years of existence in 2003 and as part of their centenary celebrations they launched this joint competition for high school learners devised by Professor Kobus van Zyl and students from the University of Johannesburg. Since then the competition had been streamlined and has gained momentum in application, such as team building and demonstrations.
Water distribution networks
Water distribution systems are important to supply safe and clean drinking water to people. The teams are tasked to design a model water distribution network to distribute three litres of water equally between three points on the grid using two different diameter pipes and connection pieces. They are then judged on how well they execute the task – working on a penalty points system. They have a period of about an hour in which to design, build and operate their network. This competition exposes learners to the practical application of processes that influence their daily lives, which is how water gets to their homes. They are made aware of the intricacies involved in the design of water distribution networks and the actual water delivery to households.

As part of the competition the water cycle is explained to the learners. Issues such as why we have to pay for water, explaining the building of dams, distribution of water through water boards to municipalities and then to users, as well as the conservation of our water resources are discussed.

The grid used for the water distribution network is on a background that depicts the entire water cycle. It intrigues learners, as well as educators, who find it a very helpful educational tool.  

The competition creates awareness regarding the issues surrounding water in South Africa. It spreads the message that water is a precious commodity, the use of which should be reduced, recycled, re-used, respected and conserved. Through this competition SAICE and the WRC, the current major sponsor, took the responsibility of spreading the news that water should be used wisely, that infrastructure should be maintained and that new infrastructure should be created to provide potable water to those without water.

This competition strengthens government’s initiatives aimed at encouraging learners to take Mathematics and Science at school and to follow a career as a science or civil engineering professional. Only in this way can we assure that the quality of life of all South Africans will be better in future!

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