Interdesign Australia, Mexico and South Africa 1999

The First Simultaneous Interdesign Workshop: Water, Brisbane (Australia), Guernavaca (Mexico), Pretoria (South Africa)

10-24 April 1999

This Interdesign workshop was the first “simultaneously transcontinental” initiative with six groups of designers in Brisbane, Australia, Guernavaca, Mexico and Pretoria, South Africa discussing potential solutions to the many mutual water related challenges shared by these arid regions. Water experts as well as other specialists assisted the designers during this workshop. The event was also combined with the third annual Design for Development Awards in South Africa, which recognised products aimed at enhancing the lives of people living in developing countries.

The focus of the workshops was the interface between users and the supply of water. Other concerns included sustainable water and resource management and utilisation. The problem areas addressed in South Africa were clean harvesting and storage of rainwater and accessories for conservation, payment of water, distribution and transportation, conservation and sanitation.


Clean harvesting and storage of rainwater, and accessories for conservation
The first rain introduces impurities into water tanks, and if not used the water remains stagnant in the tank, allowing for insects and small animals to contaminate the tanks.

Proposals saw for the development an “Eco*System” which is a holistic approach to solving water problems in rural and peri-urban communities.


Due to limited and uneven seasonal rainfall, alarmingly underdeveloped services in water infrastructure, communities’ lack of self-governance, mistrust of authority and limited training, made the concept of conservation was difficult to tackle. Proposals included an Oasis concept, a WaterXchange programme, a Water Integrated Structural Home (WISH) system, and TempOasis.


Toilets in the developing world are not coupled to the sewage pipes and sewage treatment systems, and as a result, a large majority of these toilets are dry toilets. Problems associated with current systems include lack of adequate and appropriate hand washing facilities, inappropriate bowl design to allow efficient low-volume water flush, difficult hand filling of flush tank (and generally inappropriate flush tank design), lack of systems to reuse other water to flush the toilet, and lack of systems to remove sludge periodically. Improvement began with improved latrine design, and improving hand-washing facilities.