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Call for more careful planning of boreholes by municipalities

Gert Nel
Tuesday, March 31, 2020
First presented: 
Construction World
Water Management

As South Africa uses National Water Month to focus on water sustainability, several small towns around the country are looking to groundwater for new supplies; however, SRK Consulting partner and principal geohydrologist Gert Nel has warned municipalities against drilling boreholes indiscriminately under the banner of Emergency Water Supply.

“Boreholes can deplete underground aquifers if they are not scientifically planned and executed,” said Nel. “This puts local households and businesses at risk, and can even threaten food security if the farming community is affected.”

He noted that accessing groundwater was all too often treated by municipalities as simply an exercise in drilling boreholes and pumping as much water as users required.

“This approach is not sustainable,” he said. “Groundwater development and management requires specific expertise; for instance, boreholes need to be sited correctly if they are to be sustainable, and this is the role of a qualified geohydrologist.”

Government was trying to ensure that water projects were more sustainable, he emphasised. In terms of a term tender issued three years ago, for instance, the Department of Water Affairs and Sanitation had identified a number of consulting geohydrological firms that had the necessary skills and experience to oversee sustainable water projects.

Authors: Gert Nel (Partner | Principal Geohydrologist)

Feature Author

Gert Nel


  • Geohydrology and water supply (groundwater)
  • Groundwater management.


Gert Nel has been involved in geohydrological investigations for 17 years and in general management for 10 years. His expertise includes:

  • Rural water supply including project management and geohydrological expertise in over 300 water supply projects;
  • Lineament mapping (from Landsat & Aerial Photos), geophysical exploration and drilling & testing supervision;
  • Geohydrological investigations for waste disposal as part of fulfilling the environmental requirements;
  • Implementation of the groundwater sanitation protocol on regional and local level to minimise the risk of groundwater contamination;
  • Establishment of groundwater monitoring systems for monitoring groundwater contamination by Industries and waste disposal;
  • Environmental investigations and monitoring of hydrocarbon contamination of groundwater, including Underground Storage Tank removals and clean-up of major hydrocarbon spills;
  • Development of a cemetery implementation and management strategy for local municipalities.
Partner | Principal Geohydrologist
SRK East London
SRK Africa