In Memoriam: Dr Johan van der Merwe

Dr Johan van Der Merwe (1947 -2017)

Education and Background

B.Sc, M.Sc in Geology, PhD in Geohydrology from UFS, did research at the University of Arizona in the USA, specialising in ground water management and engineering.

Technical Assistant in the Department of Geology , Lecturer and Senior Lecturer in Geohydrology at UFS. Head of the Department of Civil Eng. at the Technikon of the Free State (Central University of Technology)

He was Deputy Director in the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (Water Quality and Geohydrology) in the Free State Region and also, Deputy Director: Strategic Support in the Department of Water Affairs. He retired from Water Affairs in 2008. He is currently an Affiliated Researcher at the Institute of Ground Water Studies and Dept. of Geology at the UFS. As a representative of Bloem Water, he is Vice-Chairperson of the Modder-Riet Catchment Management Forum (an advisory body to the Department of Water Affairs.) He has been awarded with a merit award with honorary life membership from the Geological Society of South Africa for his contribution to the science of Ground Water in South Africa. He was a Committee member of the Central branch of the Water Institute of Southern Africa and Committee member of the Central branch of the Groundwater Division of the Geological Society of South Africa. He served on the Steering Committees of two Water Research Commission projects.


Dr Johan van der Merwe, wat lank Adjunk-Direkteur van Watergehalte by die Vrystaat Streek was, is Maandag 27 November aan 'n hartaanval oorlede.  Hy het 5 jaar gelede afgetree, en verlede jaar St Francis Baai toe getrek saam met sy vrou, Etta.  Hy was nog aktief betrokke by die Instituut vir Grondwater Studies (IGS) van die Vrystaat Universiteit, waar hy oor die jare honderde geohidroloe opgelei het.  Sy insig en insette het direk daartoe bygedra dat in 2005 regsgeskiedenis gemaak is met die eerste Apelhofuitspraak oor artikel 19 van die nuwe Waterwet, wat besoedeling van die Vaalrivier en die oorspoeling van die Klerksdorp myne voorkom het.  Hy was nie net 'n briljante wetenskaplike nie, hy was ook 'n ongelooflike warmhartige mens, en ek gaan hom baie mis..
-Carin Bosman


I met him in the DWS Kuruman office on his Waste Water Treatment Works inspections in the early 1990's.
He was the author of the Ghaap plato geological map set that we used on a daily basis at the time and still use.

In the water industry he is a legend in knowledge and wisdom that will last through the transfer of that knowledge and wisdom.
-Gawie van Dyk


GWD Honorary Achievement Award: Dr Johan van der Merwe started his career as a geologist/geohydrologist in 1972.  He was actively involved in the training of students up until 1988 when he joined the Department of Water Affairs (DWA).  At DWA he played a key role in formulating the processes necessary for the management of South Africa’s water resources, including:
The Water Law reform process which led to the National Water Act of 1998; The drafting of the National Water Resource Strategy 2004; Policy and Strategy for the groundwater quality management in South Africa 2006; A framework for a National Groundwater Strategy 2007; The development of the concept of Catchment Management in South Africa; The initiation of the Groundwater Assessment Programme (GWAP) for the Free State Municipalities to ensure effective Groundwater, Monitoring and Management. Johan retired from DWA in 2009, but he did not lose his passion for groundwater.  Instead he joined the board of Bloemwater and he joined the Institute for Groundwater Studies as a lecturer/researcher.  He continued to actively promote groundwater to water boards and was involved with the training of numerous young geohydrologists. He also served on the organising committee of the GWD: Central Branch. The GWD acknowledges Johan’s contribution and dedication to groundwater, and the enthusiasm he showed when researching, lecturing and promoting the science of groundwater. Groundwater Conference, Pretoria, 19-21 September 2011