Groundwater: Setting the standards – Borehole Drilling; Pumping Tests and Monitoring Workshop

Date: 11 – 13 November 2020
Location: STIAS, Stellenbosch
Field trip: Steenbras Dam, Cape Town

The International Association of Hydrogeologists (IAH) South Africa hosted a groundwater workshop held in Stellenbosch from 11 to 13 November 2020. The workshop was organised by IAH-SA in collaboration with the Groundwater Division (GWD) of the Geological Society of South Africa (GSSA), and attended by a total of 69 delegates from scientific and engineering consultancies and organizations, municipal and governmental institutions, as well as from several drilling and testing companies. The event was opened by Prof Matthys Dippenaar, President of IAH SA as well as Fanus Fourie, Chairman of the GWD, while Julian Conrad of GEOSS, Secretary of IAH South Africa and head organiser of the event gave context to the workshop by addressing the overall concerns regarding challenges faced within the drilling industry, with particular emphasis on the need for standards and how to define and implement them. Twenty two speakers presented during the 3 day workshop, ranging from drilling contractors, hydrogeologists, engineers and other specialists in the industry. Part of the workshop included a field trip to the Steenbras Dam, Cape Town’s pumped storage scheme. 15 companies sponsored and/or exhibited at the workshop. The 3-day event was registered with SACNASP and ECSA for CPD points for the delegates.

Day 1 was focussed on drilling – horizontal, deep, in dolomitic and soft aquifers as well as discussing water quality standards and partaking in a water tasting. Speakers varied from hydrogeologists to drillers, where an array of drilling techniques and settings were discussed in detail. Further, a debate was had on the potential for developing and implementing drilling standards in South Africa where stakeholders could provide their inputs and discuss at length. The debate was positive with a clear way forward in terms of the groundwater resource being better regulated with respect to drilling.

On Day 2 further insight was provided on drilling supervision, lesson’s learned during decades of drilling, where contractors could impact valuable information obtained in their experiences, dewatering and groundwater development in the Cape Flats Aquifer as well as the Table Mountain Group Aquifer by hydrogeologists. Participants then got the opportunity to visit the Steenbras Dam on a guided tour where they were shown drill cores from the deep drilling, control rooms, water discharge points into the dam as well as active drill sites. The final day of the workshop focused on pump test analysis, monitoring and interesting case studies. The delegates got an overview of the FC method for recommending abstraction rates, considering data from both primary and fractured aquifers as well as key considerations for supervising pumping tests and analysing the data. Additionally, monitoring basics as well as new technologies along with case studies on the Langebaan Road Aquifer and Loeriesfontein and Brandvlei were presented.

The workshop was successful with positive discussions, well-spirited debates and technical knowledge sharing. Groundwater is a critical resource in South Africa and the drilling industry has grown significantly in recent times, especially with droughts across the country threatening livelihoods and businesses. The workshop enabled delegates to link their knowledge gained and better understand how to develop and manage groundwater in a sustainable manner with all stakeholders involved.