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Summary Profile

Anthony is a water resource specialist with a robust international reputation.

His writing on the subject is prolific and his insight into the many different dimensions of water has made him a sought after keynote speaker, panellist and facilitator to various high impact international events. While water is mostly taken for granted by people, Anthony has the capacity to engage an audience and help them to shift their thinking about the role that this vital resource plays in their daily lives.

With a solid grasp of the different levels of scale found in the water sector, Anthony tailors his presentation or facilitation to meet the needs of specific niche audiences. For corporations seeking to expand their business in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, water poses both a risk to be mitigated and an opportunity to be explored. For governments, the way that the scarce resource is managed will determine the future wellbeing of the many millions of citizens of the region, by enabling economic growth and prosperity to occur in spite of the fundamental hydrological limits imposed by Nature (what the World Bank calls being held “hostage to hydrology”). For schools, colleges and universities, the way they educate the next generation of citizen, consumer, researcher and entrepreneur, there are many opportunities.  


1. Understanding the risk of doing business in a water constrained economy.
a. Explanatory text: The fundamental developmental constraint in Africa is the conversion of rainfall to water flowing in rivers. The World Bank has described Africa as being “held hostage to hydrology”. It is river water that has economic potential, and Africa has a number of key characteristics that business decision-makers need to understand. South Africa has worked hydrological miracles since the Commission of Enquiry into Water Matters, established in the 1960’s, concluded that water scarcity would pose fundamental developmental constraints in the 21’st Century. The country has now reached the limit of ingenuity that emerged from that Commission of Enquiry, and new thinking needs to be mobilized if sustained economic growth and prosperity is to be ensured. This presentation takes the participants through the hydrological and geophysical fundamentals in non-technical language. It then teases out specific elements of risk that decision-makers need to understand if they are to mitigate the impact of deteriorating assurance of supply, expressed either as water volume or as water quality.

2. Three water quality challenges that decision-makers need to know about.
a. Explanatory text: South Africa is currently faced with three specific water quality challenges that decision-makers, both in the public and the private sector, need to be aware of. The contents of this presentation were developed when the presenter was a Unit Fellow at the CSIR. In that role the presenter had access to masses of scientific literature that was being generated by various specialized disciplines, including hydrology, toxicology, limnology, hydrogeology and geochemistry. From this mass of literature, common findings were distilled. The collective findings from these various specialist disciplines converged around three specific water quality challenges that will impact the future economic growth potential of the country. These are: the national quest for sustainability in a water-constrained economy; the national quest for human health where we have a legacy of poverty and inequality, with large segments of society having compromised immune systems and now being exposed to radionuclide and heavy metal contamination from the mining industry, endocrine disrupting chemicals from various sources and microcystin toxins from eutrophication arising from malfunctioning sewage treatment works; and the national quest for climate change adaptation. This presentation is based on a robust bibliography and joins the dots from various specialist disciplines in a way that ordinary people can understand. It helps strategic decisions to be made about risk mitigation and the identification of future business opportunities.

3. Acid Mine Drainage as a strategic challenge to the mining industry.
a. Explanatory text: South Africa has a mining-based economy. Coal forms the basis of our national energy strategy and gold was the engine of our previous economic growth, with platinum being our future hope. The gold industry is mature and many mines are now facing closure. This leaves behind a complex legacy of environmental problems arising from the decant of water that is low in pH and high in dissolved salts and toxic heavy metals. This water is often radioactive and is known as Acid Mine Drainage (AMD). The coal industry has similar challenges, but radioactivity is not associated with coal-based AMD. The existence of AMD is an undisputed fact, so the challenge now lies in finding solutions to the problem in order that the mining industry can continue to be a mainstay of our national economy freed of the burden of the environmental legacies that are now being left largely unmanaged. This presentation helps the participant to understand the significance of AMD and is focussed specifically on the need to find solutions in the best interests of all stakeholders, including mine owners and operators. The company that solves the AMD problem will have a global market for their products and services as this is truly an international phenomenon. Just as South Africa has pioneered deep-level mining, so too will be pioneer the solution to the complex problem of AMD.

4. Why we cannot apply yesterday’s solutions to today’s problems.
a. Explanatory text: South Africa is a unique country because we have the most diversified economy in the world for the type of ecosystem we are located in. The previous economic growth has been predicated on our national capacity to mobilize ingenuity to solve our fundamental hydrological constraints. We have now reached the limit of that ingenuity and projections are that South Africa will need to mobilize an additional 28 billion cubic metres of water a year if we are to have even a modest economic growth rate by 2025. Our current national water resource is 38 billion cubic metres of water per annum. This presentation takes the participant through the factual basis of our national water security thinking and makes the case for the need to mobilize a new form of ingenuity in which the private sector plays a major role if we are to have sustained economic growth and prosperity in the future.

5. When the whale rises it gets harpooned.
a. Explanatory text: The role of leadership in science and technology is examined in a way that is factually correct but also entertaining. Science is by its nature sceptical and almost all scientists are in general hard to convince of new ideas. This is the nature of science, because it is this process of interrogation and peer review that sorts the proverbial wheat from the chaff. But there is a downside to this. When scientists move out of the narrow confines of their scientific disciplines, they often become targeted by fellow scientists. This tends to act as an impediment for the development of truly transdiciplinary skills, much needed in a complex world where ecosystem thresholds are being approached. This acts as an inhibitor of innovation. This presentation focuses on the need to nurture leadership in order to make companies robust and to deepen our fledgling democracy in South Africa.

Anthony Turton


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