2013 – Water

1. Water
Community and context

Building on the Aspen Design Challenge of 2008, “Designing Water’s Future”, this project reexamines a universal problem that has particularly severe implications for African communities and the developing world in general – namely an impending / current global water crisis. As noted in the Aspen Design Challenge, issues around water are manifold and complex requiring a diverse range of solutions / interventions targeted at local problems. At the heart of the crisis is that safe water is a limited resource, is an essential requirement for human life and is not democratically accessible or equally available to all – with the end result being that under resourced or underdeveloped communities suffer the (often terminal) consequences. And though the Aspen Design Challenge has been concluded and the winner already announced, the issues presented in the challenge remain as true for many South Africans today as they did when the challenge was first released. See www.aspendesignchallenge.org/ for more info on the challenge and the finalists. This project therefore, reissues the original challenge and asked GDC students to use their design skills in order to address this crisis with reference to the current South African context. This project aimed to examine the relationship we have with water in order to identify specific / local problems with respect to water conservation and management, its provision and consumption. Students were required to research and explore as many aspects of the water crisis (as it applies to South Africa) as possible.


Design interventions

Working in groups, the project challenged students to address or resolve the selected problems through creative design thinking. This required additional research and exploration of the identified problem, precedent studies and the development of a design rationale as part of the design process. The students divided into 5 groups and generated 5 different design solutions.


Hydrobait – Fracking the Karoo

This group targeted Fracking in the Karroo.  South Africa has the fifth largest technically recoverable shale gas resources in the world, concentrated in the Karoo region. South Africa could enjoy 400 years’ worth of energy supply. Shale gas could boost our economy by R200 million and establish up to 700,000 jobs. The aim of our design intervention was to address whether Acid Mine Drainage could be used as a source of water for fracking. The students attempted to address both the abandoned mines which pose a very serious threat to the environment and to use this water source for the responsible extraction of natural gas resources thereby not placing any further pressure on natural water resources in the Karoo. The idea behind the design intervention was to collect the contaminated water from the abandoned mines in Johannesburg and to then treat the water while it is in transport to the Fracking sites. We decided to design a tanker to COLLECT, TREAT and TRANSPORT the contaminated water. FISH BONES and FISH HARD PARTS would be placed in the tanker, which would come into intimate contact with the contaminated water and then would neutralize the pH and reduce dissolved metal concentrations. Lime Slaker would be dispensed into different tankers to treat the Acid Mine Drainage. The treated water is then pumped out of the bottom of the truck into the fracking site.

Greenbeings – Water Saving Kits

Students’ concluded that the biggest problem amongst South Africans regarding water was their ignorance around issues surrounding water, its conservation, usage and wastage. The students accordingly decided to design a product which educates people, is easily accessible to the general public and saves water. The kit consists of:

–        A FLOW RESTRICTOR which decreased the flow from 18lts per minute down to 12lts per minute – Replacing water by using pressured air

–        A FLOW TESTER/CUP which is a reusable cup showing the decrease of water flow that the aerator and flow restrictor assist

–        An AERATOR which decreases flow from 6lts to 3lts per minute.

–        A WATER DISPLACER which is Placed in a toilet cistern to save 2lts of water per flush

–        A DRIP COLLECTOR which indicates leaking taps and also contains water facts.

Adroa – Small Apartment Filter System

This group focused on providing rain water catchment systems for use in small spaces, such as apartments, that is simple for the general public to construct and use. The final solution, named Adroa, supplies a solution by collecting rain water on balconies. Adroa Water Filtering System provides drinking and cooking water for 2 adults for up to 3 days when it is full! It holds up to 50l of water.

Prototyping Water – An Awareness Campaign

One group set out to create awareness about the role of water by hacking ‘everyday elements’. The intention was to target young people within the Greenside area, using critical comment to provoke, inspire and question fundamental assumptions. Students ‘hacked’ the objects associated with water consumption, attaching typographic ‘labels’ which force users to consider the water-related implications of their behavior.

Hydrome – Desalination (Educational Toy)

The Hydrome was developed as an educational toy for children aged 6-12 and aims to educate the children on the issues surrounding water conservation, preservation, and desalination. The Hydrome is a fully working terrarium that works via the process of desalination. It includes a plexi-glass dome, tea candle, desalinator and plants. Within the dome a cycle of water evaporation, condensation and desalination takes place, and provides a protected environment for seedlings to grow