About Us

Vision Statement

By 2030, the WASH R&D Centre will be recognised locally, nationally, and internationally as a leader in WASH Research, Development and Innovation by responding impactfully to water, sanitation and linked hygiene and food security needs in Africa and globally.

This vision will be achieved by:

  • Investing in focused, relevant, and impactful research areas.
  • Encouraging a culture, systems, processes, and policies of learning, excellence, and innovation.
  • Developing a pipeline of emerging researchers to support the transformation of the WASH sector.
  • Working closely with market and collaborating partners to support institutional relevance and value to stakeholders.
  • Accessing diverse funding streams and revenue generation to remain financially sustainable.


Mission Statement

Our mission is to be a Centre of Excellence for cutting-edge applied and transdisciplinary research in the WASH sector, to grow our collaborations with local and international partners, and to produce the next generation of experts through education and capacity-building in order to contribute to alleviating the water and sanitation crisis on a global level, with a focus on the African continent.


Our Values

At the WASH R&D Centre, we are:

Innovative: We are original and creative in our thinking, to develop new methods and find new solutions to global challenges.

Accountable: We take responsibility for the decisions that we make and are conscious of the positive and negative impacts of our work and actions.

Inclusive: We engage with a wide group of stakeholders with an interest in the activities of the Centre and who benefit from our work, including the incorporation of gender mainstreaming and women empowerment when designing new projects.

Ethical: We behave with integrity and professionalism and take all precautions to ensure our activities protect people and the environment.

Knowledge driven: We focus on the creation, acquisition and transfer of data and evidence to those people who need it to make informed decisions.

Passionate: We are committed to protecting the environment, building the next generation of experts, and improving the lives of communities that lack access to safe and dignified water, sanitation, and hygiene.

A team: We are committed to working collaboratively across disciplines and functions to optimise research and development solutions.

The late Prof Chris Buckley 

5 July 1949 – 27 May 2021



The Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Research & Development Centre (WASH R&D Centre) was launched in December 2020. This Centre was created to formalise the operation of the Pollution Research Group (PRG) which has been operating at UKZN since 1971. Since its inception, the PRG has realised the importance of collaborative, transdisciplinary research, and this approach has become central to many of the projects awarded to the Group.

The Pollution Research Group

The PRG at UKZN emerged in the late 1960s as an outcome of two newly formed research groups focused on water resources and the environment. At this time, there was a growing realization regarding the critical importance of water for development, and the negative effects of industrial effluents and waste on the environment.

In 1969, Professor Ted Woodburn, the Head of Chemical Engineering at the University of Natal met with Cedric Graham, of Feltex Textiles and Member of the CSIR Council, to discuss the strategies for tackling environmental problems associated with the chemical industry. They agreed that chemical engineering principles provided the best approach and established a research centre to conduct research on the textile industry, with the involvement of Roy Turnbull from Feltex.

Simultaneously, Dr Stander formed the Water Research Commission (WRC), with the intention of funding research to investigate water resources in South Africa. He recruited Dr Ray Groves from the UK to head a research group focused on closed loop recycling of water, chemicals and energy in the textile industry. African Explosives & Chemical Industries also expressed interest in this area of research and provided funding and seconded Dr Ferdi Neytzell-de Wilde, who went to work at the University of Natal.  

In 1971, the two research organisations combined to form the Pollution Research Group (PRG). Prof Chris Buckley first joined the PRG in 1972, and became the head of the Group in 1987. 

Since the beginnings of the Group, the research focus has been on water quality, closed loop recycling and the reclamation of valuable resources (water, chemicals and energy), and wastewater management. The research focus has since expanded to include innovative sanitation technologies and the development of techniques for the characterisation of various excreta streams.

Meet the team