IAH-SA Newsletter September 2018

A long overdue note on groundwater in South Africa – do bear in mind, that it’s a “Western- Cape-Centric” perspective. Just to get it out the way – Cape Town’s dam levels are above 60% (for the first time since 2016). This provides some buffer for the dry summer months ahead. With the good winter rains citizens continued to save, store and re-use, which is most encouraging. From a groundwater perspective a sense of “normality” has returned to the consulting industry. It provides an opportunity to square away loose ends; plan and prepare for the upcoming summer. It also provides the opportunity to reflect on what was achieved during the summer in the Western Cape. These achievements include securing groundwater for almost 90 critical centres – such as hospitals; health care centres; clinics; prisons; treatment / rehabilitation centres – etc where continued water supply is absolutely critical. It includes vast amounts of drilling into our primary and secondary aquifers – with fascinating, and at times puzzling, results. It includes frantic attempts to assist the City of Cape Town and neighbouring Municipalities to augment their water sources with groundwater. Even horizontal boreholes have been drilled.

It is also clearly evident that as professional geohydrologists we must dedicate a significant percentage of our time to educate potential groundwater users about the fundamental issues pertaining to groundwater usage. We see many groundwater users – from those in large industries down to domestic users, who seem to think that groundwater use is easy – i.e. drill a hole in the ground, put in a pump and it’s all sorted. Sad stories attributable to this limited understanding abound. The massive influx of drillers into the Western Cape, arriving with no knowledge of local geohydrology, and all levels of incompetence is disturbing. Stories of 50 to 75% deposits being paid to borehole constructions; inappropriate drilling techniques (which I don’t want to dwell on here) and many more issues of concern occurred. Accreditation and approvals, based on best practices, is crucial. This has to be addressed at the national level.

On the research side there are a number of exciting groundwater research projects being carried out in the Western Cape and nationally with support from the Water Research Commission; the National Research Foundation; the bigger Universities and other organisations. Please support these as far as possible. Upcoming, emerging geohydrologists need to be strongly supported; guided and encouraged.

Regarding information sharing and networking, the SADC Groundwater Management Institute is hosting a conference from 26 to 28 September 2018 (www.sadc-gmi.org) in Johannesburg titled “Adapting to Climate Change in the SADC Region through Water Security – A Focus on Groundwater”. Please support this event and promote it as widely as possible.

The IAH 2018 Congress in Daejeon Korea is rapidly approaching – 9-14 September. The theme is “Groundwater and Life”. A lot happens at the annual Congress in terms of international groundwater developments and hopefully you can attend or support the event. I look forward to the feedback.

The Early Career Hydrogeological Network (ECHN) in South Africa now has a Facebook page that is going to be connected to the ECHN website. Jared and Sabine are now both officially on the ECHN steering committee. Jared van Rooyen has been elected to co-chair this year’s IAH congress in Korea. He will give a keynote presentation in Korea on “Developing your social media profile as a researcher, from the perspective of an ECH.”

All the best for the remainder of the year – having just returned from the Limpopo region and also the Eastern Cape (Port Elizabeth; Patensie and Jeffrey’s Bay area) it is desperately dry with severe water shortages being experienced. So even with the continual decline in the mining sector of our economy the geohydrology sciences are still in high demand. So do what you can to educate all (yes including the public) in the science and real aspects of groundwater.

Please provide any relevant feedback or any inputs will be most welcome. Till next time.

Julian Conrad (info@iah.org.za)
Jared van Rooyen (jvanrooyen121@gmail.com) IAH-SA ECHN-SA

PS. There was mention to host the 2121 IAH Congress in South Africa, however for various reasons (essentially the enormity of such an event, especially when going into the detail) this offer has been withdrawn.