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Press Release 
Local research creates viable membrane industry 
The Water Research Commission’s (WRC’s) sustained support to the South African membrane sector has led to the establishment of a viable local membrane sector, and a growing range of applications for membrane technology, an independent study has found.

Membrane systems have emerged as effective unit processes which may be used in a wide range of applications: the desalination of seawater and brackish water, the purification of water for potable use, and the treatment of industrial and municipal effluents. As the quality of freshwater deteriorates along with an increased demand for water, especially along the coast, membranes are destined to play an ever-increasing role in the South African water sector.

The potential of membrane technology, especially to treat water for drinking purposes for rural communities, was realised by the WRC as far back as the mid-seventies, and the organisation has funded several research projects into membrane technology since then. International growth company Frost & Sullivan was recently commissioned by the WRC to conduct a research impact assessment into the impact of this sustained funding on the South African membrane sector.

The impact assessment found that the WRC’s extended support for membrane-related research has been justified. This is evident from the fact that WRC-funded research has led to the establishment of a viable South African membrane industry and a growing range of applications of membrane technology. Membrane-related research projects have not only resulted in the establishment of a number of membrane-based plants to treat water for rural communities, but has also contributed to job creation and skills development, increased membrane use, export opportunities, increased revenue opportunities, improve use of technology and best practices implementation.

Since membranes are ideally suited for small-scale, rural applications, it is expected that this technology will increasingly be applied to provide communities with access to potable water. Therefore, a number of guidelines have also been developed to facilitate increased use and improved performance of rural water membrane systems.

The WRC has recognised the importance of its efforts, and will continue supporting membrane-related research in future. In addition to the present focus areas, another area expected to receive more attention is the management of intellectual property stemming from this research and development. The WRC has in the past been involved in patenting various ingenious products that were developed through its funding.

The WRC has been identified as a key stakeholder in the South African membrane research and development environment and without its dedicated efforts many of the positive benefits of the research conducted would not have materialised.

To obtain a copy of the Membrane-Related Water Research Impact Assessment (Report No: TT 366/08) contact Publications at Tel: (012) 330-0340; Fax: (012) 331-2565; or E-mail: orders@wrc.org.za

Thanks to sustained funding from the WRC, membranes are finding increased applications for rural settings. Here a 10 000 l membrane water treatment plant is providing 800 learners and the teachers of Madibogo Bathlaping Primary School, in the North West, with healthy drinking water.
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