What can we learn from the drought threatening South Africa’s water reserves?

Alarming droughts affecting the Western Cape of South Africa may offer an unhappy insight into the major challenges facing groundwater scientists around the globe in years to come. The Western Cape drought is so severe that reservoir levels are only at 37% capacity following the winter rainy season, and it is unlikely that the region will receive significant rainfall before next April or May.

So with global climate change seemingly motoring on apace, what can be learned from today’s crises so that we are better prepared for those of tomorrow?

That is one of the main questions mulled over by Professor Bruce Misstear, from Trinity’s School of Engineering, who is also Secretary General of the International Association of Hydrogeologists (IAH). The IAH is the world’s leading association for the advancement of groundwater science, and seeks to promote the wise use and protection of groundwater resources across the globe. 

Professor Misstear said: “Because of the very large storage capacity of groundwater systems, groundwater can provide an important buffer against the adverse impacts of varying climate on rivers and surface water reservoirs.”

Professor Misstear recently gave the closing keynote talk at the conference of the Ground Water Division of the Geological Society of South Africa, where his talk focused on some of the key challenges facing groundwater scientists.

These challenges range from the need to increase awareness of groundwater resources for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals; to dealing with the impacts of global change, including changing climate and intensification of land use. It is also essential that hydrogeologists and other water scientists and engineers try to communicate effectively with all stakeholders, from individual farmers to international policy-makers.

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Thomas Deane, Press Officer for the Faculty of Engineering, Mathematics and Science | deaneth@tcd.ie | +353 1 896 4685