Drilling Wells Only Solution To South Africa's Drought, Flood Predicaments - Geologist

Drilling Wells Only Solution to South Africa's Drought, Flood Predicaments - Geologist

JOHANNESBURG (UrduPoint News / Sputnik - 15th February, 2021) Water has long been a sore point for South Africa as it lurches between extremes of droughts and floods, but one non-governmental organization sees drilling wells as a solution for rural communities, Sputnik has learned.

Multinational South African charity Gift of the Givers, which focuses on water provision to the disadvantaged in addition to health care and hunger alleviation, has increasingly turned to drilling wells to tap into natural aquifers deep underground in the country's most drought-stricken regions.

Gideon Groenewald, a geologist working with the NGO, told Sputnik that drilling projects are underway in the country's Eastern Cape to supply hospitals and communities.

"We are currently drilling for water and constructing water wells to supply communities and rural people in a situation where they either experience a drought or floods. We are drilling in the Eastern Cape province because it is extremely dry... we supply water to thousands of people and hospitals," Groenewald said in a conversation with Sputnik.

At the same time, Groenewald explained, issues are rife even in areas where water is available and there too, wells can be a solution.

"In the north [of the province], there is so much water that it is polluted and it is not good for drinking, so the best way is to drill for water wells," the geologist, specializing in hydrology, said.

Groenewald drew the example of Komga in the Eastern Cape, a town that has been without water supply for three years despite its proximity to a river system. Komga residents have to trek hundreds of feet to communal water tanks daily because the local pumping station has fallen into disrepair, the geologist said. At the same time, the water level of the tributaries does not disappear during the dry season and droughts but falls to a level whereby algae and other pollutants render it undrinkable.

Groenewald said that tapping into a major local aquifer through drilling was the only solution, but it required official approval.

"The only viable solution will be the drilling of water wells into Fort Beaufort group aquifers. An intervention of this kind by the Gift of the Givers can only be planned if a formal memorandum of understanding exists. Gift of the Givers must receive a formal request for assistance from local and district municipalities," Groenewald said.

At the other extreme, wells could be used as a way to put away floodwater instead of letting it flow out to sea or evaporate, the hydrologist explained to Sputnik.

"In Southern Africa... especially in rural areas, there is extreme flooding and the water is not good for agriculture as it causes damage... we do not have storage facilities which store water. We need big dams to store water. Another way to store water is to do what Gift of the Givers does - the answer is underground," he said.

According to Groenewald, underground aquifers can be used as repositories of floodwater for when the dry season rolls around. Just as underground rock formations naturally store water for hundreds of years, excess water can also be replenished without fear of leaking away or evaporating. Wells, again, can act as the Primary avenues to deliver floodwater there, the hydrologist explained.

The recent floods in Mozambique in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Eloise in January could have been alleviated had the countryside been dotted with aquifer-linked wells, Groenewald stressed. The massive amounts of rainwater brought in from the Indian Ocean found their way to the rivers, which could only swell as they flowed back into the ocean, affecting major coastal cities built at their mouths, particularly the port city of Beira.