South Africa has a number of universities providing professional academic qualifications in groundwater and groundwater related professions. Being a very practical discipline, hydrogeology requires a substantial amount of field and laboratory exposure for graduates. This can be very costly and is hard to achieve without placing the financial burden of field exposure on the students directly.
As such, the GWD and IAH teamed up to host the first ever combined field school for students completing their professional four-year degrees in groundwater-related subjects. The GWD agreed to host industry courses for professionals requiring continuous professional development (CPD) points with the professional registrar. Profits from this event, as well as some presenter honoraria donated back to the GWD, were used to fund the mobilization, accommodation, meals and study materials of 31 students from five universities across South Africa.
The North-West University opted to host this first field school, with the budget acquired through industry courses presented at the University of Pretoria. Students from the North-West University (NWU; Potchefstroom), University of Pretoria (UP; Pretoria), University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN; Durban), University of Stellenbosch (US; Cape Town) and University of the Western Cape (UWC; Cape Town) attended the field school 11-15 June in Potchefstroom with the course being presented by Prof Ingrid Dennis, Dr Rainier Dennis and Mr Nicolaus van Zweel from NWU, and Dr Roger Diamond and Dr Matthys Dippenaar from UP.
Students were exposed to field-based geophysical investigations, rotary percussion borehole drilling, borehole logging, hydraulic testing including slug-testing and pumping testing, groundwater sampling, and downhole camera.
Short lectures focused on specialist topics covered in varying detail in different syllabi presented by academics publishing on the topics. These included geophysics, vadose zone hydraulics, and isotope hydrology. Normal hydrogeological background normal was assumed, and the field school did not attempt to replace content fixed in different curricula of different institutions.
As the event was completely free for students, it was all inclusive and accessible to all. The only requirements for participation was involvement of the relevant university in the GWD as the primary funder of the event, the commitment of the university to contribute to this or future such field schools, and, if required, contributing to mobilization costs.
The event was an enormous success and highlights collaboration between tertiary academic institutions to the benefit of the profession without conflict of interest. Students made friends with future colleagues from other specialist disciplines, at other institutions, and from other cities. They learnt about new research from South African academics and broadened their horizons through exposure to state-of-the-art field methods.
Given the success and very positive feedback from this event, we are planning to host another in 2019, with universities in the city of Cape Town being prepared to host.
On the behalf of all of the University of Western Cape students who attend the Winter Field School, we would like to thank you for this great opportunity.
As the Winter Field School has created a platform that allowed us to gain first-hand experience in hydrogeology. We were exposed not only the theory but the practical side of this field.
We appreciate the uniqueness of the programme it allowed us to further our knowledge and our skillset. The programme has also contributed to our individual honours research project by increasing our understanding to different components of hydrogeology.
Lastly we were able to network with students and professionals from different fields of hydrogeology, this was very exciting and informative.
Kind Regards, UWC Students
Marlese Nel, June 2018
The current drought situation in the Cape Town and broader Western Cape areas leaves National- and Local Government no option but to invest in alternative water supply sources. Therefore, the City is planning to abstract 80 million m3 from the Cape Flats aquifer, 30 million m3 from the Atlantis aquifer and 40 million m3 from the TMG aquifer before the end of this year.
The Western Cape Government (through the Department of Transport and Public Works (DTPW)) has put plans in place to ensure that essential facilities continue to function in the event that municipal water becomes severely constrained. The first priority for the Western Cape Government is to make the hospitals water secure and a programme of drilling boreholes at the facilities has already started to augment municipal water supply. The drilling programme is followed by pumping tests to properly assess the performance of a borehole, the borehole yield, the zone of influence of the borehole and to determine the aquifer characteristics. The water supplied by the boreholes is seamlessly integrated into the existing water supply of the hospitals, including Grootte Schuur- and Tygerberg Hospital.
The Premier of the Western Cape, Me. Helen Zille, has also initiated a project to ensure that schools have access to alternative water resources and are not crippled by the likely arrival of Day Zero. Approximately one third of schools in the province already have an existing borehole.
Various private hydrogeological consultants, drillers and academics are involved in these (almost) orchestrated efforts. On the ground, experts and field personnel are collaborating and extending support to each other. Still, these groundwater resource development efforts are a reaction to the water crisis, and not an implementation of previously recommended plans to augment the city’s water supply with groundwater.
In general, the need to become less reliant on National Government for water supply seems to be increasing exponentially. Current groundwater exploration indicates that large industries, factories, businesses, farmers as well as the individual house owner are actively investigating and developing groundwater resources to meet their water demand.
Nice surprises and discoveries along the groundwater flow paths…
The groundwater science continues to amaze and surprise even its practitioners. These are some of the encounters reported by local (some grey) hydrogeologists and also curious bystanders in the last few months:
Groundwater development is happening at an incredible (somewhat alarming) rate in the Western Cape. This is however an excellent opportunity to develop a good, well-referenced hydrogeological database for the province. With the cooperation of the different groundwater users, it can be a remarkable display of sound groundwater monitoring and – management that will lead us well into a water-secure future.
Groundwater has been placed under the spotlight recently with the drought causing many to become interested in groundwater as possible alternative. This has not always been positive for the profession, given that individuals are increasingly falling victim to unscientific methods and fear mongering in the social and mass media domains. Nonetheless, this is an excellent time to accentuate hydrogeology as a profession and to inform about the special skill set of the scientific profession.
With 2018 already well under way, the GWD has been very active throughout its regions. We are happy with the decision to host the 2019 biennial Conference and Exhibition in the Eastern Cape, especially following a very successful 2017 event in Cape Town. We are building stronger relationships with other associations and societies, and we are putting in more effort to be visible in the branches.
We thank you for your continued support and look forward to the next year.
Matthys A. Dippenaar, PhD PrSciNat
Chair: Ground Water Division of the Geological Society of South Africa