The GWD Central Branch Dr Amy Allwright, together with the GWD National Chair Mr Fanus Fourie, hosted this Groundwater Awareness Talk that was presented by Nicolette Vermaak of the Institute for Groundwater Studies at UFS. Nicolette offered an overview of what groundwater awareness entails and shared some of her experiences.

This Talk aimed to create a platform for those who are already - or want to become - involved with groundwater awareness initiatives to get together with like-minded people, looking at existing drives and future needs and possibilities.

ABOUT THE TOPIC: Awareness can be defined as knowledge or perception of a situation or fact, concern about and well-informed interest in a particular situation or development and the quality or state of being aware. It is also the knowledge and understanding that something is happening or exists. Our awareness is often linked to things we have learned and experienced in life, so it differs from one person to the next. We can improve our awareness of the world around us through conversations with others, by reading, by listening to talk and watching programmes.

This talk addressed a number of important questions, such as:
Why is it important to be aware of groundwater? What is the information groundwater scientists would like to share with the general public and other scientists? What can be done to inform others about groundwater and the issues connected to it?

Talk Resources:

N Vermaak Powerpoint Presentation: GWD-webinar-19-February-2021
(.pdf - 2.15 MB)

This Talk is available via the GWD YouTube Channel:

Q&A and Comments:

Government & Local Government
From Raven Kisten : Great traction on this thus far! Just a comment…Extremely worried that some Municipalities and Organs of State are lacking education on this subject which leads to poor development of groundwater projects and thereby creating greater disbelief in the ability of this resource to serve as sole sources or to supplement existing resources. Perhaps this GW Awareness movement needs to incorporate govt entities.
Comment by Jeanne Gouws: Only the municipalities that could afford to appoint consultants got by with regards to groundwater during the drought. Much work is needed in a wider area.
Comment by Palesa: Perhaps you can also consult the Norad toolkit for more content

Education e.g Schools & Expo's
From Marlese/ Jaco Nel & Angelo Johnson: Are there any type of material that will work good with children? Nicolette, how did the colouring in material work?
From Izelda: Workshop with School kids. Hi Nicolette I am a Geohydrologist and I started doing workshops with Kids. I did a workshop on water cycle with kids at a Clayville school and it was awesome. We mostly do activities after watching a clip on a certain groundwater topic. I showed the kids a clip on water cycle and then we did an activity they 'build' the water cycle on the paper plates. We had the colouring competition with help of Elanda and price giving. I am planning more groundwater workshops on primary and high school levels going forward, making kids aware of this natural resource. <Sorry guys my mike is not working well> Kids mostly remember things when you do activities with them. We had a prize giving which they enjoyed and they kept asking when the next workshop is.

From Marlese/ Jaco Nel & Angelo Johnson: The Water Research Commission has quite a lot of awareness stuff, maybe link up with Lani to check if some material are more requested/popular than other?

From Marlese/ Jaco Nel & Angelo Johnson: What about something like the ESKOM Science Expo but then specifically focus on water projects?

From Adolf October: What tools of awareness are you looking at, books, pamphlet, worskshop with schools?
A: All of the above

For anybody interested in the Translation initiative (translating the Wally_and_Deannas_Groundwater_Adventure booklet) : please contact info@nullgwd.org.za and send us your language if choice.
Thank you to the following volunteers!
1. Fanus Fourie - Afrikaans
2. Boitumelo and Audelia - Sesotho and Sepedi
3. Awodwa Magingi - Xhosa

Public/ User & Citizen awareness
From Jeanne Gouws: Just a comment. The groundwater dependent ecosystems also need to be communicated during awareness building.
The awareness information could definitely be worked into the "community conservation" side of CapeNature here in the Western Cape. As well as for our communications on various social platforms used by CapeNature.

From Jane Trembath: Would enjoy knowing more about Citizen Science and groundwater.

Thank you to all the Attendees that contacted us after the event to set up meetings and start contributing towards coordinated GROUNDWATER AWARENESS INITIATIVES in the Sector. Look forward to further contact.

Other examples driving the need for Groundwater Awareness

Groundwater in the News

Lake Sibaya is SA's largest freshwater lake, but experts warn it could dry up within the next 10 years. #CarteBlance


Mr Mark Schapers, a Technical Director and Geohydrologist at JG Afrika Engineering and Environmental Consulting, (JG Africa and GWD and GAKZN Branch Representative), has been calling for urgent attention to this matter since 2015:

Falling water levels in the Maputaland Coastal Aquifer

Download Mark's full 2018 Opinion PieceDownload

Since 2000 (refer to Annexures 1 to 3), there has been a marked and disturbing fall in groundwater levels in the Maputaland Coastal Plain Aquifers, which has more recently manifested in the alarming drop in the Lake Sibhayi levels by an astonishing 8m (half the total volume of the Lake). The drop has resulted in the southern portion of the Lake splitting off and dropping a further 7.5m below the main lake level.

The causes and effects remain a hotly debated topic; some of the primary drivers include:

•   Decreased rainfall and drought conditions (climate change),
•   Increased groundwater abstraction,
•   Absence  of  mega  rainfall  events  (cyclonic  rainfall  from  the  Mozambique  channel) and associated recharge,
•   Geological controls,
•   Eucalyptus forestry and the increase thereof.

Whilst it is understood that every area is unique, and that modelling of conditions can vary substantially, these variations are typically in lower percentiles (i.e. standard deviations of 1 to 10%). However, some simple calculations do help realize the orders of magnitude of each of these potential drivers, and the potential effect they are having on the groundwater system.

The time for opinion and speculation is over, and science-based solutions are required as a matter of urgency to save and preserve one of the most productive groundwater aquifers in Southern Africa.

"Sustainable and wise use of groundwater is important" Dr Eelco Lukas shares the facts: https://iol.co.za/capeargus/opin

Have something to say?

The National Groundwater Association, USA is speaking up during their National Groundwater Awareness Week 2021, 7-13 March 2021.

They realise that their "most valuable and precious resource needs advocates who understand the importance groundwater plays in our lives and community. Any resource taken for granted is a resource at risk of being lost, which is why we are dedicating National Groundwater Awareness Week 2021 to the advocacy of groundwater safety and protection and increasing its access across the country."

We need to mobilise! During the upcoming National Water Week 2021 (15 to 22 March) we hope to be part of some local initiatives in support of groundwater. This we trust will become the start of an 'underground wave' that will see Groundwater in South Africa get its own platform. If not a week, surely we can start by getting a day?

Contact us if you / your company have an outreach or event to showcase..
Contact us if you are aware of any opportunities we can take up and get the groundwater word out there..
or Share with us YOUR STORIES..


We are starting up a new feature on our website called ‘Our Stories’. We want to give a platform for our members and other to share their success stories/projects to the world. Tell us about your challenges with a difficult drilling site and how you overcome it; a new method you applied in an area; the research that you are busy with, etc. We need to share.

We are requesting only a maximum of 200 words, a photograph/figure and contact details. The writing must consist of a title, short description, the results and the impact of the work.

The contact details need to contain your details, the company/organisation/university details as well as the company/organisation/university logo.

We invite all our members to share experiences with us. And if the media picks up on a story, you will be contacted and not the GWD. This is free advertising for you and your organisation.

We look forward to share more news on the upcoming Groundwater Conference, Gauteng 17-20 October 2021
If you are not a member of the GWD, and have not attended one of our online events, but still would like to be considered in the Conference Call going out soon. Please add your detail below:

Online Platform for Groundwater Knowledge
Groundwater Learning for Everyone Everywhere
Online books and educational materials free of charge

Interact with the biggest groundwater references from all around the world. Subscribe to their YouTube channel and make sure you don’t miss the last talks of the 1st Groundwater Project Event: Making Groundwater Visible! Learn more and explore the exciting panels: events.gw-project.org/2021


On Thursday, 04 February 2021 the University of Pretoria shared its latest doctoral research with GWD members:

The Vadose Zone in Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology - Research by UP Geology

The UP Department of Geology has for the past decade focused on how the soil and rock between land surface and the phreatic or saturated zone behave with respect to highly variable moisture contents.

They aim to contribute to knowledge on variably saturated flow through soil, rock defects, karst, and the interfaces between these media. This Talk on unsaturated hydraulics and the role of the vadose or unsaturated zone in engineering geology and hydrogeology was presented by past and current UP doctoral students:

Dr. Brendon Jones, past UP Doctoral student, joining from Australia
Variably Saturated Fracture Flow: Principles and Applications in Fractured Rock
Mampho Maoyi, current Doctoral Student, joining from UP
Variably saturated Flow: Fundamental concepts in natural fractured rocks
Duan Swart, current Doctoral Student, joining from UP
Unsaturated Soil Mechanics. Why is it important? Let's dig up the facts

The Session was facilitated by Prof Matthys A Dippenaar (Associate Professor: Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology) and Prof Louis J van Rooy (Associate Professor: Engineering Geology and Rock Mechanics) from UP Geology Department (www.up.ac.za/geology)
Please email all queries to: matthys.dippenaar@nullup.ac.za

Q&A Session

The following questions was raised and addressed during the session:

C Zermatten Q: Brandon- Is it correct to understand that your related experiments considered vertical flow from horizontal flow always to an open system (the cutting in the tunnel) and currently no information on vertical flow into a closed system?
C Zermatten Q: Mampho- Is it correct to understand that the lab tests used 1x shale sample and 1x quartzite sample (used repeatedly for wetting and rewetting etc)? (versus using multiple samples for comparison)
Did your work evaluate different types of shale (where mineralogical composition may be highly carbonaceous) and/or different extents of weathering of the shale (the photo you showed in the slides was quite pristine) – I would be interested to see your comparative results of weathered shale where the parting planes have opened to a greater extent.
C Zermatten Q: Duan- With regard to plant-soil interaction – have you been able to conceptualise the potential for site specific variability as a result of plant type (i.e. trees that are invasive, trees that are deciduous and trees
that are known to have an aggressive root system?

Frans van der Merwe Q : How effective is dam foundation grouting in an unsaturated rock mass? How do you ensure effectiveness?

A special thank you to the Water Research Commission for supporting research at the University of Pretoria.

The video of this recording is made available to view via the GWD YouTube Channel:


The GWD Western Cape Branch under the vibrant chairpersonship of Dr Sumaya Israel, started off 2021 with this interesting topic presented by the much esteemed Helen Seyler - Thank you so much for sharing your research results with us Helen!

This talk presented research into the applicability of machine learning for the forward prediction of groundwater levels and flow regime, as an alternative to numerical modelling, using results from the dolomite aquifers in South Africa. The research supports a larger programme researching the use of big data analytics for water secure transboundary systems.

TALK ABSTRACT : Fundamental to the definition of groundwater availability and the management of any aquifer is an understanding of the changes in groundwater levels and storage, recharge, and groundwater discharge to surface water, when the aquifer is pumped. This understanding forms the foundation for the determination of limits of future abstraction and thresholds of unacceptable impact, and provides a tool against which to compare future datasets and make groundwater management decisions.

Given the complex nature of groundwater and the interdependent responses of the system to change, quantifying the relationship between the aquifer flow regime and abstraction, and determining the long-term implications of different thresholds on these systems requires the use of models. Generating accurate simulations for groundwater behaviour with numerical models is however challenging due to the requirement to accurately understand the physical system in order to simulate it and overcome the non-uniqueness of the numerical solutions, which in turn requires detailed datasets. It has therefore become attractive to test the application of machine learning techniques in the simulation of groundwater behaviour.

SPEAKER BIO: Helen has thirteen years experience as a hydrogeologist (in South Africa), including experience in various aspects of groundwater resources management, and specializing in numerical modelling for water resource quantification and scenario planning, wellfield operating rules, surface water – groundwater interactions, and the groundwater aspects for mining EIAs.  She has a particular interest in "sustainable" groundwater use, and in social and economic development challenges as they relate to resources management. Her PhD thesis currently underway: Groundwater Decision Support Systems including Sustainability Indicators for Sustainable Groundwater Use.

Talk Resources

A recording of this Talk is available on the GWD YouTube Channel:

Q&A Session

Helen addressed these questions from participants during her session. Please refer to the Talk recording for her detailed feedback:

Arrey Agbor Q: Is the licensed abstraction data from the same area? And it would be interesting to hear how you dealt with the sources of errors with your data.
Nico van Zyl Q: Helen, why do you think LSTM Model performed better?
Sonia Veltman Q: Would you be able to overcome the storage effects with training the models with results from i.e. two layered numerical models? Where at first you calibrate the groundwater system through the numerical model and then use those time data sets to train the ANNs.?
Arrey Agbor Q: How about combining both ML and numerical models for explainability?

In addition, Helen shared an extract from the WRC report:

Tensorflow (Al-Abadi, 2016) in Python (Rossum, 1995) was used to model the LSTM (McKinney, 2010). Pandas, NumPy (Van Der Walt et al., 2011) and Matplotlib (Hunter, 2007) libraries were imported for management, processing and visualisation of data.

The nnetar function in the forecast package (Hyndman and Athanasopoulos, 2014) in R (R Core Team, 2017) is used to fit the NNAR model to the time series. The nnetar implements the NNAR model using a neural network with a sigmoid activation function, a single hidden layer and lagged inputs for forecasting the target variable.

Following this Talk, GWD Western Cape speaker Zaheed Gaffoor joined us to present on the topic: "Localizing regional scale groundwater big data using machine learning: A case study of the Ramotswa/NW/Gauteng Dolomites" in early March 2021.

National Chairperson: Mr Fanus Fourie
Vice-Chairperson: Ms Nicolette Vermaak
National Treasurer: Mr Yazeed van Wyk
National Secretariat: Dr Jaco Nel
National Coordinator: Ms Elanda Schaffner

Please contact this Committee via [email protected]

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