AQUALIBRIUM – changing learners’ lives one water competition at a time!

The South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE) will host the finals of their 15th annual AQUALIBRIUM Schools Water Competition on Friday 27 July 2018 at the Grundfos Green Building close to Johannesburg. What started as a South African competition where learners had to design, construct and operate a water distribution system, exactly the same way qualified civil engineers would do in a municipality, has over the past three years become international with Swaziland and Zimbabwe also participating.

Very few interventions or career days have the advantage of practically illustrating what a career is all about. This is an adventure that everybody remembers once they had been there to experience the excitement first-hand!


The 2017 winners, was Martitzburg Christian School from Pietermaritzburg with only 15 penalty points. The second place went to Parel Vallei High School in Somerset West with 25 penalty points and in the thirdspot was Kimberley Boys’ High School with 40 penalty points. In total the winners shared prize-money of more than R23 000-00.

Regional winners come from across South Africa and from Swaziland and Zimbabwe! Many of the teams are 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 encounter with flying in an aeroplane and being in a ‘big city’. Without sponsorships this would not be possible. If you are serious about inspiring learners to become civil engineering practitioners or water scientists, please contact us for sponsorship opportunities!

The three 2015 finalists from the Winnie Mandela Secondary School in Ivory Park, Midrand, are all currently studying civil engineering at the University of Pretoria! Phomolong Secondary School in Tembisa, a really disadvantaged school where 80% of parents are jobless, has already delivered four civil engineers from the Universities of Cape Town and WITS! Currently the three winners of 2014 are studying civil engineering at the University of Stellenbosch – because of this competition! How does one put a value to a competition that has led to so many learners, especially from rural areas and townships, studying civil engineering and which, at the same time, makes a difference to the priority scarce skills situation and the lives of many people!

The competition

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. The teams have a period of about an hour in which to plan, 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.

The grid used for the water distribution network is on a background that depicts the entire water cycle with all the major impacts affecting this scarce resource. This grid intrigues learners, as well as educators, who find it a very useful educational tool.

The competition creates awareness regarding the issues surrounding water in South Africa. It spreads the message that water is a precious commodity, which should be recycled, re-used and respected, while the use of water should be reduced. Through this annual competition SAICE takes the responsibility of spreading the news that water should always be used wisely, not only now during the serious drought situation; that infrastructure should be maintained and that new infrastructure should be developed timeously to provide potable water to all in South Africa.

The competition also gained recognition in the broader scientific environment through being chosen as one of four finalists in the National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF) 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 in two consecutive years (2012/13 and 2013/14).

AQUALIBRIUM 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 practitioner. Only in this way can we assure that the quality of life of all South Africans will be better in future!