Water Quality and Shortage: Problems Faced in South Africa and Brazil

Scientists from 26 countries have taken part in the first IAGC Conference hosted by Tomsk Polytechnic University. They discussed and presented research outcomes in the field of isotope geochemistry and water-rock interaction. Researchers from South Africa and Brazil also came to the large- scale scientific event. Together with TPU scientists, they are participants of the international working group Water Resources and Pollution Neutralization of the BRICS Network University. At the symposium, they told journalists about the features of water resources in their countries, cooperation within the BRICS Network University, and possible scientific points of contact with their colleagues from Tomsk. 

Photo: Participants in the working group,  BRICS Network University, from South Africa, Russia and Brazil:
Yali Woyessa, Evgenia Soldatova (Associate Professor, TPU Geology Department) and Otto Rotunno Filho.

The conference of the International Association of Geochemistry (IAGC) united two significant scientific events: the 16th International Symposium on Water-Rock Interaction and the 13th International Symposium on Applied Isotope Geochemistry. 

Water unites

Professor Otto Rotunno Filho from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) says:

‘These five member countries represent one-third of the global economic potential, one-third of the population, occupy one-third of the entire surface of the Earth. Despite our different cultures, languages, GDP level, we have similar problems that unite us. Water and its quality are what bothers all of us.’

According to Prof. Filho, the main peculiarity of Brazil’s water resources is a very large and diverse territory of the country, which implies that different regions are located in different ‘water conditions’. 

‘Although there are sufficient water resources, we have some regions that suffer from water shortages while others have plenty of them.

The second feature of Brazil in terms of water use is that our power industry mostly relies on hydropower. We generate a major volume of power from water. Meantime we are also concerned about the quality of water and its treatment before use,’ says the Brazilian scientist.

An acute shortage of water is a great problem in another BRICS country, the Republic of South Africa.

Professor Yali Woyessa from the Central University of Technology, Bloemfontein, says:

‘In South Africa, there is physically little water. There is simply nowhere to take it from. Therefore, our country increasingly develops technologies to enable water treatment and its multiple use. Our strength is water treatment technologies and we can share our expertise with scientists from other BRICS countries.

Nevertheless, we understand that these technologies should be enhanced in order to provide as many people as possible with drinking water.’

Prof. Woyessa noted that he was very surprised to learn at the symposium in Tomsk that in the city there is about the same amount of rainfall per year as in South Africa and Tomsk remains a green city.

Russian scientists focus on the formation of natural water composition, protection of water resources, as well as the study of groundwater and surface water.


Window on Russia


Researchers Otto Rotunno Filju and Jali Voyessa admit that the first IAGC International Conference became for them a real window to Russia.

‘Once again I was amazed how much our countries have in common, despite being far from each other. Our group has started working on a book that will collect information about all problems and features of water resources in our countries as well as best practices to record the initial state of affairs in this matter. This is a necessary step to understand where and how scientists should move on,’ says Jali Woyessa.

Despite the fact that researchers from Tomsk, RSA, and Brazil do not conduct joint research, their meeting at TPU revealed that they could find directions for cooperation.

‘Over the last years, the interest in groundwater has increased in Brazil including the ways it can be used, treated before use, and monitored.

Before that, the government and scientists have paid attention solely to surface water. Now we are on track towards groundwater studies as well. Russian scientists, in particular in Tomsk, are good at this matter. That encourages us to seek common ground,’

adds Otto Rotunno Filho.