KZN turns to boreholes as drought worsens

Geologist Rae Bester and his assistant Nsika Hlatshwayo present data collected from underground water studies for boreholes in the Greytown area.
Geologist Rae Bester and his assistant Nsika Hlatshwayo present data collected from underground water studies for boreholes in the Greytown area.
Ian Carbutt, The Witness

Pietermaritzburg - With the massive drought crippling most of KwaZulu-Natal, emphasis has been placed on borehole systems to save communities without water.

Although borehole projects in KZN are not new, there is a demand for them now more than ever before as areas across the province run out of surface water.

Recently, the department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) announced in a press statement that money had been allocated to drill boreholes to alleviate the crippling effects of the province’s biggest drought in 23 years.

Hopes have been raised that the R24,6 million that has been allocated to the province for the drilling of boreholes, the installation of water schemes and hand pumps will go a fair way to alleviating the needs of water-scarce communities.

Greytown geologist Jacques Du Preez said borehole explorations have been going on for a number of years and quoted a section from the Groundwater Division website to explain groundwater and how important it will be to the country.

The site explains that although groundwater makes up around 13% of the country’s total water supply, it is an important and strategic source of water. With two-thirds of South Africa dependent on groundwater, the site describes water as “more valuable than gold”.

Du Preez said that while groundwater is an abundant resource, this does not mean it should be used wastefully.

“The maximum quantity of groundwater that can be developed economically in South Africa is estimated at about six billion/m³ a year,” he said.

“Some groundwater resources take a long time to replenish and if too much groundwater is extracted too fast, it may become depleted.

“In coastal areas, fresh water, being less dense, floats on salt water. The over-extraction of fresh water may allow salt water to replace it. Therefore it is important to decide how much water can be extracted from an aquifer before it is developed,” said Du Preez.

He said groundwater is “recharged” depending on rain and snow melt.

“We are only able to abstract as much water as that being recharged, otherwise the groundwater supply will run into a ‘deficit’. It is therefore possible that we can run out of groundwater, at least until the supply has been recharged again.”

He said the recharge process could take up to anywhere between a month to 100 years, so it is important to know how much water is available from a specific aquifer before it is used.

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