Dynamic Groundwater Resources Of Grahamstown/Makhanda: Their Contribution To Alleviating The Current Water Crisis

The current Grahamstown/Makhanda drought has once again highlighted the vulnerability of the local surface water resources. The two local dams supplying the western part of town (and the university) are fed by a typical Eastern Cape river which requires a very large amount of rainfall to generate runoff into the dam. Rainfall records since 1860 indicate that statistically, the current drought is not the worst drought the town has endured and there have been many similar droughts in the past, most recently in the mid-1990s, and early 1980s. The severe drought in the 1980s led to the municipality commissioning a groundwater feasibility study carried out by Dr Andrew Stone, employed by Rhodes University at the time. The study included the drilling and testing of 13 boreholes, as well as a report on incorporating groundwater into the town's water infrastructure. All but two of these boreholes are destroyed, and they, along with the report were forgotten about. Around 4 years ago, we discovered the report at the university and began building on the work undertaken by Andrew Stone by monitoring 31 of the town's boreholes and carrying out a detailed analysis of the towns local groundwater fed spring, which many of the town's residents rely on. The current drought reignited the interest in groundwater, particularly with the arrival of Gift of the Givers who drilled a further 15 boreholes in town. The renewed focus on groundwater development came with its own complexities since the western part of town that the university resides in and the historically white area, is the only part of town to yield good quality groundwater. The local synclinal fold structure has resulted in a bowl type landscape in which much of the town is situated. Resistant Witteberg quartzitic sandstone rocks are observed as high-lying ridges which border the south-western margin of the town. The less resistant Dwyka tillite and Witteberg shales are generally found in the low-lying areas. This paper discusses the current water crisis, and how groundwater could be used on an on-going basis to relieve the water deficit in drier times caused by the vulnerable local dams.

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