Guest Editorial by Matthys Dippenaar Associate Professor: Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology Department of Geology, University of Pretoria

GSSA Geobulletin GB-March-2021-for-WEB (5,84 MB)Download

We need nice stories about science, so we don’t have to perpetually defend science in a world flooded by intentional misinformation and misrepresentation of skill.

As geologists we face this constantly when we share the fascinating stories of the origin of the Universe, the history of the Earth, and the development of Life. We sometimes face different, more real-life and close-to-home matters, where conflict is not necessarily due to differences in narrative, science education or belief. Here, science becomes a surrogate for issues pertaining to moral, ethical, societal and monetary injustice: energy, land use, mineral resources and groundwater—all fundamentally geological resources.

What makes water supply different to minerals and energy, however, is that water is a basic human right. This implies that water is supplied at extremely watered-down tariffs to make it accessible and affordable to all. While this is both commendable and absolutely necessary, it does result in reduced respect and appreciation for the resource.

People tend to be more wasteful of something because it is free or cheap, making water management and governance a very difficult task indeed.

Most of us grew up with a friendly schematic version of the water cycle. A smiling water droplet accompanied you on a spectacular journey from a cloud to rain, and from a river to the ocean. With arms outstretched it yearned to be pulled up to the skies again to complete the circle of its existence.
Occasionally—rarely, but occasionally—we would see this droplet acknowledge the other 99% of the planet’s fresh water. You would be so lucky to be accompanied to the ice caps and glaciers where water is in solid phase, or underground where water stays in openings in soil an rock as groundwater. Though two thirds of our freshwater occurs as ice and one third as groundwater, humanity is still biased towards that 1% occurring in rivers and dams. Almost all fresh terrestrial water is practically excluded from the narrative.

When we look at the story that is told, it is one of reservoirs to store surface water. When that runs out, we talk of augmentation by desalination of ocean water. Whatever happened to the water that we walk on, that shows some delayed response to climatic extremes, and that has some lower vulnerability to contamination and evaporation losses when compared to most surface water alternatives?

This is why no one blinks an eye when boreholes are drilled at random and at one’s own prerogative. As long as the dam levels are monitored, the use of your groundwater is deemed your privilege—no, your right!—despite it being fundamentally wrong and in direct contradiction with our National Water Act (NWA; Act 36 of 1998).1 The Act states very clearly that water is a natural resource that belongs to everyone and that—despite its uneven distribution—its use should be equal. This is echoed by our Constitution (Act 108 of 1996), which states implicitly that everyone has the right to sufficient water, and an environment protected from pollution and ecological degradation, and subject to sustainable development.

Abuse of cheap water affects the story of groundwater. When the sound siting and installation of water infrastructure outweigh the ‘free water’ you are looking for, then why in the world would you spend more on doing it legally, sustainably and ethically? Why would you opt for geophysics and models and testing when someone knows someone who has a gift and can do it for less? This makes it very hard for well-trained groundwater scientists to compete with fairy tales of dowsing (or divining or witching; whatever hocus pocus term works). Science has been given a bad name.

It is a story so often told; one of the abilities of some individuals to site groundwater by some obscure means. But finding water is not the hard part. Practically all ground is wet at some depth. This is the premise of gravity, whereby water (or anything, for that matter) will go down as long as there are openings for it to go down into. No scientist has ever contested that. Finding water is not the skill.

Finding clean water, at acceptable yields, that will not adversely affect the environment or other users, both in space and time, and that will not falter in its yield—this is the skill. Doing this all subject to the SANS 0299 series (Code of Practice: Development, Maintenance and Management of Ground Water Resources), and subject to water use licensing requirements (NWA 36:1998)—this is the skill. This is where the science trumps the quackery, and where we need to be more forceful in protecting the water cycle from those without any respect of it (read, those who shamelessly mine or over abstract water, or those who knowingly pollute it).

This is where groundwater science comes in.

Hydrogeology or geohydrology (used synonymously for most purposes), the scientific study of groundwater, is a fairly well-established science with its roots very close to early-days civil engineering, geophysics, and of course, geology. It has developed to a science no longer concerned solely with water supply from boreholes (or wells), but to one understanding the complexity of the hydraulics of aquifers and its place within the greater water cycle.

No, we don’t just pump boreholes. And no, groundwater doesn’t come from underground rivers and lakes. It is more complex than that. I’d encourage everyone to start with the book by Nel 2 and then to work through the amazing free online platform of groundwater science information at the Groundwater Project (

We need to study the mechanics of the aquifer to understand the regional ramifications of lower watelevels in boreholes. We need to understand the substantial significance of allowing water quality to deteriorate at one point in the water cycle.

Numerous cities and towns throughout South Africa are dependent either fully or partially on groundwater in the water supply mix. 3,4,5 Urban groundwater also brings with it so much more than just matters of supply, also requiring input into water-related disasters, flooding, flooding of underground infrastructure, sustainable drainage solutions, and so much more.6,7

Cities are very often founded on or near water to serve as transport corridors, or for nutritional (drinking) purposes. Cities are near coastlines or rivers. Yet Gauteng is on top of a significant water divide in South Africa, diverting surface water to the Indian Ocean by means of the Crocodile, Olifants and Limpopo rivers, as well as to the Atlantic Ocean by means of the Vaal and Orange rivers. The founding of Pretoria, which predates the discovery of gold and the founding of Johannesburg, is deeply rooted in the high yielding springs from the Malmani Subgroup in the present-day Fountains Valley Resort. As you enter the capital city from the Fountains Valley Interchange, you are greeted with fountains, reminding us of the two high-yielding springs around the corner. To this day, these two springs (Upper Fountain and Lower Fountain) supply in the order of a combined 30–40 million litres per day to Tshwane. The discharge from the springs has remained constant for the 160 years since its first use, and they now supply 5–10% of the City of Tshwane’s water, together with some other springs and boreholes.

Unlike the karst springs in Pretoria, Cape Town itself has a number of springs associated with the Table Mountain Group that have contributed to the water supply of the city throughout its history. Even though the hydraulics of these springs is different from the karst springs in Pretoria, they also provide consistent discharges of remarkably good water quality.

One should never waste your word count with things everyone knows. Yet this needs to be said: South Africa is water scarce. South Africa’s water is erratically distributed. South Africa is predominantly semi-arid to arid.

None of this matters. We have to make do with what the complex geological and geomorphological development of our country has left us, and how this is further compounded by the climate and the changing climate. We have to make do with the difficult job we have as hydrogeologists, and how this is further compounded by ignorance and miscommunication. We need scientists who can communicate science through stories that will captivate audiences and convert those who fall prey to dishonesty and misrepresentation.

Maybe the water cycle also deserves some herd immunity; an additional layer of care and resilience where it is possible, to attempt to mitigate possible adverse effects elsewhere where it is more vulnerable...

Hydrogeology is a fascinating science that South Africa is remarkably competent in internationally. Our hydrogeologists are well respected abroad, and we contribute to academic research, collaborative research, and the international professional bodies. As a country, we are hosting the 50th Congress of the International Association of Hydrogeologists in Cape Town as a joint partnership between its South African National Chapter and the Ground Water Division of the Geological Society of South Africa, in 2021. This is the third on the continent and the second in the country. What a wonderful opportunity to showcase our country’s competence in the science of groundwater!

Hydrogeology is becoming increasingly important. The amount of work done by hydrogeologists in augmenting water supply during the recent droughts is astonishing. These teams spent months to years with geophysical investigations, field visits, modelling, hydraulic testing, and sampling to come up with water supply solutions that are sustainable in the long-term. As hydrogeologists, one needs to test and monitor to continuously verify and improve models. While these are very easily and very often neglected, the consequence of untested and unmonitored schemes is inevitably failure at the expense of the environment and the people. Water supply is as much a matter of drilling a borehole as driving is a matter of having a key, and doing it wrong is an enormous risk.

We no longer study and teach borehole drilling. The hydrogeologist of the twenty-first century has to manage the resource to ensure long-term sustainability and equitable access to the benefit of the people and the environment.

As scientists, we need a partnership with the public and a partnership with the environment. Our client is the Water Cycle, and it is becoming increasingly volatile in a time of climate change, brownfields developments, urbanisation and emerging contaminants. We should update the narrative; our stories should not only say that (groundwater-)science is fun, but that it is hard and that it requires skill and competence.


1. NWA. National Water Act 36 of 1998. Government Printer.
2. Nel M. (2017). Groundwater: The Myths, the Truths and the Basics. SP 108/17. Water Research Commission. Pretoria. Available online at
3. Dippenaar M.A. (2013). Pretoria’s Fountains - Arteries of Life. SP 44/13. Water Research Commission. Pretoria. Available online at
4. Dippenaar M.A. (2015). Johannesburg: Gold in the Rand, Water from the Land. SP 91/15. Water Research Commission. Pretoria. Available online at
5. Dippenaar M.A. (2016). Cape Town: where sweet Waters meet the Sea. SP 95/16. Water Research Commission. Pretoria. Available online at
6. Armitage N., Vice M., Fisher-Jeffes L., Winter K., Spiegel A., Dunstan J. (2013). The South African Guidelines for Sustainable Drainage Systems. TT 558/13. Water Research Commission. Pretoria. Available online at
7. Seyler H., Witthüser K., Sunaitis M. (2019). Urban Groundwater Development and Management. 2741/1/19. Water Research Commission. Pretoria. Available online at


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 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:

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:


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 (
Please email all queries to:

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.

The GWD applaud the recent initiative of Ms Izelda Uses-Mbatha - a teacher at the Wonderland Christian Pre- and Primary School, located in Clayville, Midrand - whom initiated, with the enthusiastic support from the school principal, a groundwater science workshop with her Grade 2 and 3 class in December 2020.

The workshop focused on the 'Wonders of the water cycle' and importance of groundwater in nature and had the students participating in an activity making an aquifer model.

With the joint efforts of the Water Research Commission (Mrs Virginia Molose and Mr Yazeed van Wyk, Research managers at the WRC), the Department of Water and Sanitation (Mrs Olga de Beer and Mr Fanus Fourie) and the Ground Water Division (Ms Nicolette Vermaak, IGS), available learning materials were investigated, sourced and supplied where possible.

The following materials and sources were also recommended:

Groundwater Foundation, US- Learning Resources for Students & Educators

Earth Science Museum, Canada booklet: Wally_and_Deannas_Groundwater_AdventureDownload

SA DWS Groundwater - A series of posters about groundwater and our health. It is an interactive teaching tool and must be used with the Teacher's Guide.
Poster 1 shows the water cycle [3.2 MB]
Poster 2 shows how groundwater can be polluted [2.5 MB]
Poster 3 shows you ways to keep water clean so that you stay healthy [3.2 MB]

It was especially the 'Fill and Colour' groundwater booklet with drawn groundwater pictures from the creative hand of Ms Nicolette Vermaak, that as a 1st draft version, inspired the possibility of similar materials that can be developed in the future.

Ms Izelda Uses-Mbatha reported that the Workshop was much enjoyed by the kids (and teachers alike) and hope to repeat this 'fun learning event' with other classes as well.

As part of the fun activities, the GWD invited the learners to take part in a coloring competition over the December 2020 holiday.

We can’t see groundwater because it’s hidden below
But the turning windmill is a tell and a show:
That somewhere, not too far under the ground
Lies a treasure of blue just waiting to be found!

The Division received 22 entries. All coloured pictures submitted by Grade 2A and Grade 3A are beautiful (!) and it was very difficult to decide on the final winner. It was only after a rigorous (and scientific) evaluation process, that an overall winner was announced:

Congratulations to Nathan Mbata - Age 8 that was selected as the Top Entry.

Congratulations Nathan!

Award Ceremony

The Winners and Teachers at the beautiful prepared venue for the Award Ceremony.
Virginia Moloso (WRC- left) and Izelda Uses (Groundwater Kids initiator -center) together with the Principal and Teachers from the Wonderland Christian Pre- and Primary School
Nora Maposa, Brenda Mhlangezana and Angeline Moyo.

Should you be interested in AWARENESS INITIATIVES & MATERIALS - do contact us via and get involved.

To all those interested in undertaking postgraduate research in the field of hydrology and hydrogeology, we would like to call your attention to four PhD opportunities at/in collaboration with the British Geological Survey, fully-funded as part of the NERC Doctoral Training Partnerships. Two of the opportunities are hosted the BGS headquarters in Nottinghamshire and two are co-supervised at the BGS. For more information, please visit the relevant links below.

Hosted PhDs:

Water Cycling In High-Altitude Wetlands – Implications For Water Security In The Peruvian Andes (CENTA)

BGS, University of Birmingham, Imperial College London, CONDESAN Peru

Conceptual modelling of global groundwater variability and change (SSCP)

BGS, Imperial College London

Collaborative PhDs:

Glaciers and future water supplies in the Himalayas (GW4+)

University of Exeter, BGS

Natural flood management impacts on groundwater-surface water dynamics in upland areas (E4)

University of Edinburgh, BGS, University of Dundee

A full list of BGS hosted and collaborative PhDs is available at


Natural attenuation of acid mine drainage by various rocks in a typical Karoo coalfield: case study of the Witbank, Ermelo and Highveld coalfields, South Africa

Sakala1,2, FD Fourie2, M. Gomo2 and G. Madzivire1,3
Council for Geoscience, Pretoria, South Africa
Institute for Groundwater Studies, University of the Free State, South Africa
The University of South Africa, Department of Environmental Science

In the Karoo coalfields, mining operations which release acid mine drainage (AMD) are threatening groundwater resources. An important parameter controlling the extent and severity of AMD impacts is the natural attenuation of rocks in response to introduced of AMD. Very little is known about such responses for Karoo rocks in saturated and unsaturated conditions, a research gap filled by this paper. Laboratory column leach experiments were used to study the responses of different rock types from Witbank, Ermelo and Highveld coalfields of South Africa. The results show that various rocks have varied responses and are a function of the quartz, plagioclase or carbonate mineral content. The presence of oxygen increased the rate of heavy metal removal from the AMD. For all rock samples under saturated and unsaturated conditions, the sulphate and chloride concentrations of the AMD remained unchanged after the leaching process, showing that these parameters are conservative and can be used as potential natural tracers of AMD movement in the subsurface.

The research shows that laboratory leach tests may be used to rank the various rock types found in the Karoo coalfields in terms of their capacities to buffer the impacts of AMD. Such a ranking could inform policy and decision-makers regarding the handling and storage of AMD-generating wastes, as well as the location and design of AMD waste storage facilities.

Dr Emmanuel Sakala is a Chief Scientist at the Council for Geoscience with expertise in natural resources exploration using geophysical techniques, design and application of artificial intelligence (AI) systems in geoscience. He has worked as a geophysicist in mining, research and consultancy services for 14 years in 11 African countries. He holds a BSc (Hons) degree in Applied Physics (2005), MSc degree in Geophysics (2007) from the National University of Science and Technology and a PhD degree in Geohydrology (2018) from the University of the Free State. In his career, he received five awards for outstanding research, conference proceedings and competitions.

Extract Presentation Dr E Sakala on Background to the Study
About the Methodology applied in the Study
Test Sheets on column leach results

AMD Natural Attenuation potential map

Energy Source (Fluid & Pollutant Source; Transport, Trap, Aquifer); Relative Rock - AMD reactivity

Thank you Dr Sakala for sharing your Case Study with attendees.
We appreciate the insights into possible tracers, potential handling & storage of AMD-generating wastes, passive treatment and future research suggestions.
(Please contact Mr K Majola (GWD GAU Branch Chair) via for CGS liaison regarding the presentation & event recording *CGS disclaimer)

Live Engagement:

D Question : Realistically, is 'clean coal' financially viable in the South African context? And if it is, why is no-one / so few applying the technology? As a non-mining geologist, I'm rather skeptical that any mining is 'little or no environmental harm'?

T Question: Would the idea not be to attempt neutralization before decanting? Has the thought of limestone being given as back filling material?

C Question: In dolerite what about pyroxene dissolution reactions?


The GAKZN Webinar hosted, in association with the GWD and the University of KwaZulu-Natal, had two speakers presenting on current research findings:

Presentation 1

TALK ABSTRACT: The Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite data interpretation provides an integrated measure of monthly terrestrial water mass changes. The GRACE satellite data has been successfully used to estimate the monthly changes of terrestrial water storage (TWS) including groundwater storage changes. This presentation will provide an overview and application of the GRACE satellite product to determine the groundwater storage changes in Usutu-Mhlatuze Drainage Region in north eastern South Africa.

ABOUT THE PRESENTER: Manish  Ramjeawon  is  a  Hydrology  PhD  candidate  from  the  University  of KwaZulu-Natal. His current  research interest  involves the  impact  of  land use change on surface water and groundwater resources in northern KwaZulu-Natal.


GRACE, GRACE-FO, Modelling, land-use, Usutu-Mhlatuze Drainage Region, monthly images, surface water data, 3 lakes, eastern coast, 9 dams, global land data simulation, NASA, resolution, GLDAS, soil moisture, NOAH land surface model (LSM), storage, anomalies, mean 2002-2009, trend 2002-2006 decrease, DWS, variation, 2017-current steep decline, 2017-2018 gaps in data satellite, not operational, cloud cover, general trend, consistent, soil moisture anomaly, between 2014-2019 decline water levels, purpose of study, primary, secondary aquifer, storage for catchment, steep decline to 2020, groundwater storage, deviation of the mean, size of the secondary aquifer, decreased groundwater storage. Institute data, groundwater monitoring data, DWS stations, compare with GRACE on primary, similar trend, WMA, decreased rainfall, land-use, commercial forestry, eucalypti, 1000 hectares per annum and 35% drain, Lake Sibaya. Limited groundwater monitor stations, GRACE potential

Thank you to my research supervisors

Dr Molla Demlie -
& Dr Michelle Tosha
Funders Acknowledged.


Presentation 2

TALK ABSTRACT: This presentation highlights the results of the development and the calibration of a steady-state and transient three-Dimensional numerical groundwater flow modeling based on a robust conceptual hydrogeological model of the area. The calibrated transient numerical groundwater flow model is further used to understand the advective transport of a hypothetical contaminant released from the site of a proposed nuclear power facility at Thyspunt. The information gained from the numerical groundwater flow and advective transport models help to understand the background hydrogeological conditions to be used as input in the environmental impact assessment and as a reference for future post development conditions of the area.

ABOUT THE PRESENTER: Mr Moneri Joel Modiba is a young professional hydrogeologist. He is a member of the GSSA and worked as a geologist at the Marula Platinum Mine. He holds a BSc honours Degree in Geology from University of Limpopo and a MSc Degree in Hydrogeology from the University of KwaZulu-Natal.


three-dimensional, numerical modelling, testpump area, nuclear station, EIA required, conceptional groundwater flow, hydrological condition, contaminant transport, isotope analysis, study advective transport, eastern cape, 120km west PE, high rainfall, winter, topography, 2 drainage systems, rivers, highlands to Indian ocean, meta-sedimantary rock, metholotic interconnect, geology, TMG fractured, outcrops, preferential pathways, intergranular, aquifers, fractured, less productive than, methodology, climate data, earth data, hydrostratigraphic unit, chemical, trace elements, iron oxidation, robust, 3d model, calibration, converted, advective transport model, hydraulic parameters, arteasian borehole, chemical, PH, EC, classification, fresh water, iron in mix, seawater and surface water, evaporation, tritium analysis, modern water, older water, software, Thyspunt, MODFLOW, upstream package, 2 layers, 2 formations, deepest borehole with constant elevation, pumping, model domain, specified head, model grid, top elevation, steady state, conversion, calibration test, water budget, total inflow, successful model, head distribution, relationship, similar observed, simulated, good fit, simulation, transient, forward particle, flowpath, injected, particles, indian ocean, future, proposed footprint, reversed, tracking, no seawater intrusion, domain, transport, tracking, recommendation, robust, mean absolute error, 4 decades, reach ocean, ongoing monitoring

Special thank you to Prof Demlie and Prof Tumara.
Funders and hosts acknowledged.


Talk 1 Q SN: Thanks Manish. Would like to please find out if there is any correlation with the lack of flood releases from Pongolapoort Dam (fills numerous pans) and groundwater recharge, probably focusing on the secondary aquifer.
Manish: Did not look into floodlands and correlation with data that I have. I will let you know if I find anything on that.

Talk 2 Q PR: An EIA has already been done for this site, including a groundwater specialist report including modelling? References - EIA specialist report missing?
MD responds: This study is independent of what has been already done. The researcher was not allowed to refer to the EIA.

Talk 2 Q PR: Figure 20. Conceptually, recharge is postulated to flow from the higher lying TMGA of the Kareedouw Mountains towards Cape St. Francis. Therefore not sure about the no-flow boundary across this area?
Moneri: I think the reason we assigned a north flow boundary from that area. We don't have (e.g. rivers) a groundwater divider that side , it was done not to allow water into the model domain.

Talk 2 Q PR: How were the aquifer parameters such as T and S derived - from test pumping or from previous work? Why not do advective transport from the proposed nuclear installation footprint?

Moneri: They were derived from pumping tests. Pumping test data analysis done by the research from data provided by NNR. Data that were already done in the field. Vector transport from Nuclear footprint was done but not included in the presentation.

Mr Pieter Labuschagne noted that these regular science sharing sessions are of great importance, arranged quarterly by the/ with the students & branch support, and thanked all that attended.


Job Advert

Table Mountain Water Source Partnership Project Manager

This is a 2 year contract position based in Cape Town

WWF is the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organisation, with over 6 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption. WWF South Africa (WWF-SA) is a national office that is part of the WWF network. We are a local NGO that has worked for 50 years with the aim of inspiring all South Africans to live in harmony with nature, for the benefit of our country and the well-being of all our people. Our work is challenging and exciting and we love what we do. To join our team you need to be brilliant at what you do, passionate, results-orientated and have a positive attitude.

Download the full Advert to read more on the Background to this position. Staff-Vacancy-Table-Mountain-Water-Source-Partnership-Project-Manager-1 (.pdf 278.88 kb)Download

Key Responsibilities:

1.   Stakeholder engagement and relationship building with project partners and the interested public such as municipal and government representatives from the City of Cape Town, Water Affairs, Agriculture and Environment, a wide variety of community representatives from Cape Town, academics, business representatives etc.

2.   Helping to convene groups of stakeholders around the Table Mountain Water Source Partnership.

3.   Contract and project team management ranging from geohydrologists, database developers, IT specialists, academics, NGO staff etc.

4.   Project management and quality assurance of all projects including a monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) programme of work.

5.   Contracting, reporting and project oversight of operational activities such as planning & implementation of annual plan of operation and financial record keeping.

6.   Both written and oral communication and promotion of the project to the public and the media.


·    A postgraduate degree in Geohydrology (MSc or higher) and/or environmental science and at least 3 years of work experience in a groundwater related field.

·    Experience in geohydrological monitoring and data management a must, as well as a sound understanding of the relevant policy environment.

·    Strong project management skills, including contract management and project reporting.

·    Good technical report writing skills.

·    Ability to oversee, manage and direct a multi-disciplinary set of contractors while working to tight timelines

·    Professionalism, strong work ethic and a very strong team player.

·    Excellent relationship management skills and ability to engage with a variety of stakeholders

·    Feeling comfortable to work under tight deadlines and deliver against project outcomes

·    Proficiency in working in Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint.

·    Ability to represent the project and present on behalf of the project partners at variety of different forums. ·    Fluency in English

Applications close on Sunday, 15 November 2020.

Download the full Advert to find submission guidelines and instructions. Staff-Vacancy-Table-Mountain-Water-Source-Partnership-Project-Manager (.pdf 278.88 kb)Download

11-13 November 2020, Stellenbosch University.

This workshop pulls together leading experts in the groundwater industry and includes a field visit to drilling within the Table Mountain Group Aquifer (TMGA). It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn and network. Although based in the Western Cape, international trends will also be discussed and the workshop is applicable to all involved in groundwater from the southern Africa region and beyond.

Read more & Register on the IAH-SA website

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]

Copyright © 2018 Ground Water Division of Geological Society of South Africa. All Rights Reserved. Website Design by Digital Takeover.
twitterfacebookenvelopelinkedin linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram