Hydrologist strikes again: Dr Groenewald's unconventional methods of finding water in drought-stricken regions

2019-02-21 07:38
Dr Gideon Groenewald in Makhanda. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

Dr Gideon Groenewald in Makhanda. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

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Dr Gideon Groenewald has an unconventional way of finding water in drought-stricken regions. But while the hydrologist, geologist and palaeontologist's methods may be somewhat unusual, they have resulted in more than 200 boreholes being drilled with 90% accuracy over eight months.

Oom Gideon, as he prefers to be called, is part of the Gift of the Givers team which on Tuesday struck pure drinking water at 145 metres in Makhanda at his first attempt. The find is conservatively estimated to produce 20 000 litres of water per day, the organisation said.

The disaster relief NGO arrived in the town formerly known as Grahamstown last week with truckloads of water for residents of the eastern side of the area. They had been without running water for days after an excessive amount of sediment resulted in the James Kleynhans Water Treatment Plant being unable to operate.

READ: Makhanda water crisis - Fresh hope as Gift of the Givers strikes water

Groenewald, wearing his signature floppy sunhat, was part of the convoy.

He had already identified three possible borehole sites using his uncommon technique.

"I do my sightings under prayer to God. And I ask Him and he leads me to the point. I cannot find or see water. God gives the water," he told News24.

Early riser

He is "first a believer, and then a scientist".

"God has given us the wisdom in the science of geology and geohydrology to find water that He stores underground."

His "working hours" are usually between 01:00 and 04:00, when he accesses Google Maps and zooms 78km above the earth.

"I pray for God to indicate to me where the possible zones are. I then make a GPS point where a road crosses that zone. Then with my GPS and magnetometer, I confirm on land where the point is that God indicated to me and then I start drilling."

On Tuesday he led a team to start the drilling process and hit gold near the Waainek Water Treatment Works a few hours later.

According to Makana municipality, Groenewald said the idea was to log all the existing boreholes around town and merge them with the town's infrastructure.

'Millions and millions of litres of water underground'

He would then select the most plausible boreholes in terms of their proximity to electricity and pipelines, and those would be blown clean with a rig and tested both for the yield and chemistry, it said in a statement.

On Wednesday, the drilling rig was to be positioned at other sites with similar rock formations where it was expected that higher yields of water would be found at a lesser depth.

"The aim is to drill at as many sites as possible to provide a sustainable alternative to bottled water which is an emergency stop-gap measure," explained Gift of the Givers founder Imtiaz Sooliman.

READ: Karoo town asked to reduce water use to 50 litres a day amid drought

Groenewald said many looked at the drought as a hopeless disaster, while others considered it scientifically - South Africa is in the worst drought in 220 years with a prediction of three more years of extremely low rainfall.

"And then you can look at it from a third point, from a creation and Creator's point of view. He can fill the dam tonight. A miracle can happen," he insisted.

"In SA at the moment we know the surface water is low, but underground God has stored millions and millions of litres of water. We need to know how to find it. We can see the cracks, we can see the fault zones, we can use magnetometers, we can use all the science in the worlds to find the lines that show the cracks. But God gives the water."

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Read more on:    port elizabeth  |  drought  |  water crisis  |  water  |  good news
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