Event Debrief: A day in the life of a Hydrogeologist (GWD YPs)

Event Debrief: A day in the life of a Hydrogeologist (GWD YPs)

01 Aug 2022
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Home News Event Debrief: A day in the life of a Hydrogeologist (GWD YPs)
The GWD Young Professionals recently hosted this free online discussion event opened up to all people working in the the sector: young and older - to share and discuss current realities: opportunities, challenges and possible solutions to better the uptake of knowledge and experience.

A day in the life of a Hydrogeologist

The YP committee commenced with their first event of the year aimed at sharing some of their experiences in the Groundwater sector to the benefit of students and professionals alike. 



Thapelo Mongala - Junior Lecturer, North-West University
Annalisa Vicente - Groundwater Modeller, Umvoto 
Setjhaba Mofokeng - Production Scientist, Department of Water and Sanitation
Bongeka Maphumulo - Junior Hydrogeologist, Knight Piesold
Sisipho Dlakiya - MSc candidate, Nelson Mandela University
Hlengiwe Msweli - Junior Hydrogeologist, ERM
Micheal Holloway - Junior Hydrogeologist, GEOSS
Lerize van Wyk - Junior Earth Scientist, GCS


This Talk is now available on your GWD YouTube Channel


The panel opened as an informal conversation centered around the following questions. 
1) Introductions – Name, Title, Experience, Industry/Sector
Two panelists were from academia, 5 from consultancies and 1 from government. Working experience varied from Zero to 10 years with the median being 3-6 years. All but one have obtained or are in the process of completing their Masters degrees. 
2) Tasks and Duties – Typical day to day tasks.
Academia has a threefold approach, teaching and learning, research, and community engagement. During studies, data collection, analysis and interpretation is key. 
Consultancies vary in their tasks. Annalisa mentioned the development of a conceptual groundwater model to an numerical one from data collected. Lerize described some of the fieldwork as entailing regular groundwater level monitoring and water sampling . This is towards providing clients with baseline water quality or monitor compliance to Water Use License conditions. Bongeka also mentioned drilling and pump test supervision which was a common theme to all the consultants.  Hlengiwe mentioned, among others, conducting subsurface clearance prior to drilling, developing health and safety plans and risk assessments. Micheal added that one of his tasks is client interaction to understand their needs. 
In the government sphere our panelist, Setjhaba deals with data warehousing and maintaining the NIWIS dashboard as well as providing data to various business units in the department and stakeholders. 
3) What are preferable personality traits for your role? 
A passion for the sector led the traits necessary for a Hydrogeologist. Time management as well with emphasis (from consulting panelists) on addressing client needs. Mentorship was also mentioned as a key feature in the workplace as it guides and develops skills and understanding.Good writing and presentation skills. Adaptability to changing environments.
4) What are the pros and cons of your job?
Pros were mainly travelling to different locations. Doing meaningful work that positively impacted communities. 
Some of the cons were working in remote areas in the wilderness. Job insecurity within the consulting space. The COVID lockdowns were mentioned in regards to this.  Long hours were also mentioned. 

Some (not all) questions from the audience 

What are the employment prospects in South Africa for foreign nationals?
The panel answered that there are various policies that looks at employing citizens of South Africa before considering external individuals. 
How can students get employment? 
The job market is competitive. However individuals are encouraged to remain resilient. Also, being open to adapt and pivot until reaching your desired job is realistic. Networking and Volunteering helps. 
Are there any recommended courses a hydrogeological student can take outside of university, to improve one's skill set and employment prospects?
Courses in soft skills, project management, programming languages for modelling 
Is Masters an essential requirement to gaining an internship or job opportunity is all spheres of the industry? - consulting, government and so on
In academia it is and a PhD is highly encouraged. The panelists from consultancies and government stated that it is not required but it is encouraged.
What is being done to ensure that even people in the deep rural areas have access to water cause I still witness rural areas that still rely on rivers for water?
In terms of municipal service delivery, every municipality needs to add the need for water In rural communities and wards through their IDPs and funding should be addressed to projects that provides water, be it groundwater through or surface water


The event reached a peak attendance of 87 participants and maintained an attendance of about 40 participants throughout.  The majority of attendees were students. They gave positive feedback during the meeting as well as on social media afterwards. 
Participants were encouraged to reach out on LinkedIn if they had any questions. 
Thank you to the Young Professionals and Students for your active participation in this event.
Alternatively, reach out with any more questions/comments to