The Department of Earth Sciences at Stellenbosch University (SU) has established a Hydrogeology Field Course to fulfil the urgent need for practical skills required for large-scale development and management of groundwater resources in South Africa.
According to Dr Reynold Chow, lecturer in hydrogeology in the Department of Earth Sciences, the urgent need for hydrogeological field skills was highlighted by the 2015-2018 drought in the Western Cape and the aftermath caused by the lack of skilled managers.
“Groundwater is a critical alternative water source that can increase the resilience of our water supply systems, but they need to be managed properly," he explains.
The first group of BSc Honours-students, specialising in geoenvironmental science, recently completed a two-week field course at SU's experiential farm Mariendahl, next to Elsenburg experiential farm. Here they could take advantage of SU's pre-existing infrastructure in the form of boreholes and a groundwater treatment plant. The department also acquired state-of-the-art equipment for the field course, such as downhole cameras for creating borehole logs, level loggers for continuous measurement of groundwater levels, and various hydrogeological tools.
During the two weeks, from 4 to 15 July 2022, the students received hands-on training in fundamental hydrogeologic field skills such as groundwater exploration and borehole siting, core logging, well installation and development, taking of water levels, hydraulic well tests and characterisation of the aquifer.
According to Dr Chow, the field course is a good example of how collaboration between academia and industry can equip students with the latest skills required by a fast-changing industry. In this regard Mr Reuben Lazarus, a hydrogeologist from the local groundwater consulting company GEOSS South Africa and an SU-alumnus, made valuable contributions to the course through his dedicated planning, lecturing, and mentoring of students. Other industry partners are Van Walt, Alveo Water, and Ingerop South Africa.
The first cohort of students were hugely positive about their hands-on training. One student remarked that “I liked the hands-on experience and being able to apply the theory of what we learned in the classroom". In future, the course will be opened to students from other faculties and universities, as well as industry professionals.
The development of the course was made possible with support from the Stellenbosch University Strategic Fund, the Faculty of Science and the Department of Earth Sciences.
For more information, e-mail Dr Reynold Chow at firstname.lastname@example.org
The BSc Honours students in geo-environmental science completed the first field skills course in hydrogeology, presented by SU's Department of Earth Sciences in collaboration with industry specialists. From left to right, Brynn Hunink (demi) and students Kereemang Gaoaaga, Kira Cobbold, Yamkela Mapetshana, Zara Samsodien, Ezelna Germeshuisen, Ongeziwe Gege, and Jandré de Beer from the groundwater consulting company GEOSS. Photo: Reynold Chow