SA’s groundwater needs to be carefully protected

South Africa’s groundwater needs to be jealously guarded; it is a scarce and extremely valuable resource. Proper management is therefore vital to ensure sustainable farming for generations to come, according to Bloemfontein geohydrology consultant, JL van Vuuren.

SA’s groundwater needs to be carefully protected

Without this resource, irrigation farming would not be possible in large parts of the country, he said.

Irresponsible and continued abstraction of groundwater could permanently damage aquifers, Van Vuuren told Farmers Weekly.

He ascribed poor groundwater management practices in the south-western Free State to landowners’ lack of appreciation for groundwater conservation and management.

“With time and significant rainfall, an aquifer may recovers somewhat, but it is improbable that it will ever fully recover if overused,” he said.

Groundwater, derived from geological formations called aquifers containing sufficient saturated permeable material to store and transmit water, yielded economical quantities of water to boreholes or springs.

The main reason for the depletion of groundwater resources was over-abstraction of water from an aquifer.

“Groundwater resources need to be carefully evaluated and regularly tested,” Van Vuuren said.

In the south-western Free State, the scale of irrigation was a challenge, as the irrigation schemes were too expansive for the volume of groundwater available.

With time, some borehole yielded markedly lower volumes, which indicated over-abstraction.

“This leads to the sinking of new boreholes, putting even more pressure on the aquifers,” he said.