Knowledge exchange and environmental education

Return visit from South Africa to the Oldenburgisch-Ostfriesischer-Wasserverband and the Wupperverband

The group of visitors from South Africa with OOWV employees | Photo: OOWV

Within our utility partnership, five of our South African colleagues visited the Oldenburgisch-Ostfriesischer-Wasserverband (OOWV) and the Wupperverband during a one-week visit in early March 2023. Although they missed their connecting flight in Frankfurt, the group happily arrived in rainy Bremen with a delay of 3 hours and was impressed how organized the Germans are. On their first day, our colleagues woke up with snow and were highly motivated to find out more about us and our work.

On Monday morning, we started at the Museum Kaskade in Diekmannshausen. We were joined by 8th grade students from the Herbartgymnasium in Oldenburg, who were roaming the Museum of Water History and worked on their assignments for the workshop "The Future City is Green and Blue" organized by the OOWV. In different groups they dealt with future urban life: urban nature and water in the city. Two other high school classes are also participating in this workshop at the Wupperverband and in the South African metropolitan municipality of Buffalo City (BCMM). On the occasion of World Water Day on March 22, all students will share their results.

This joint action is a result of the utility partnership that was established between BCMM, Wupperverband and OOWV in February 2022. "The operator partnership is meant to promote exchange and mutual knowledge sharing between all three partners. Each has its own expertise and is specifically experienced when it comes to particular challenges," says OOWV project engineer Meike Lenzen, explaining the aim of the utility partnership.

"Part of the cooperation also involves exchanges in environmental education. That's what we want to achieve with these workshops," says OOWV Environmental Education Department Manager Annette Groth, describing the objective of the workshops.

Bandile Gqweta, General Manager Water, Wastewater & Scientific Services at BCMM, was very impressed by how creatively and actively the young people addressed the topic: "We are very happy about the exchange here on site. Also, there is a lot to discover in the museum."

The Oldenburg wastewater treatment plant was next on the agenda. Besides a reunion with other project participants and a tour of the wastewater treatment plant, the participants shared information on effluent qualities, measuring instruments and energy generation. These topics also came up during the visit to the Wupperverband, where we had the opportunity to get to know the wastewater laboratory and the Radevormwald wastewater treatment plant.

"It is very nice to see that professionals do understand each other. Even though not all technical terms are obvious - people in our business can always help each other out with chemical formulas," Deanne Karshagen, Senior Manager Scientific Services at BCMM, was happy to report. 

During the visit to the Wupperverband, the colleagues had the opportunity to learn more about the requirements for drinking water and the German concept of drinking water protection zones. The program included a visit to the Great Dhünn Reservoir with its abstraction tower and a renaturation site.

"International exchange is an important basis for developing joint strategies for solving future problems. The personal exchange always opens up new perspectives and is a lot of fun as well. We all hope for a prolongation of the utility partnership. Collaboration is actually scheduled to run until June 2024," explains Catrin Bornemann from the Wupperverband.


All photos: OOWV

Meike Lenzen, OOWV

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