Written together with: Fhedzisani Ramusiya, Scientist Manager at Directorate: National Hydrological Services.
South Africa is a water-stressed country where groundwater contributes significantly to rural and urban water supply, as well as irrigation. An estimated 80 000 to 100 000 boreholes are drilled each year. To manage groundwater resources efficiently and sustainably, the Department of Water and Sanitation collects a large amount of data of various types, such as borehole data and groundwater monitoring data. The groundwater level monitoring network comprises approximately 1,800 observation wells that are monitored on different monitoring frequencies.
The National Groundwater Archive
Since June 2010, groundwater data are made available for download in the National Groundwater Archive. The NGA is an online, centralized database where everyone can register, for free, to access groundwater data. The NGA is the main component of the National Groundwater Information Systems, a responsibility of the Department of Water and Sanitation set forth by the National Water Act, established in 1998.
The database currently comprises of 293,100 geosites (information points), such as boreholes, dug wells, seepage ponds, springs, etc. Data can be captured and edited from the regional offices of the Department of Water Sanitation, and by several registered partner institutions. Several filters are available to browse to the desired datasets. Data like monitoring water level data can also be visualized in charts.
Use of the NGA
Currently, on average 500 users consult the NGA every month and the number grows continuously. Data are used for a broad range of applications in water management and environmental protection, by public institutions as well as the private sector. It is particularly helpful for siting new wells. It has also proved instrumental for the assessment of river basins and aquifers shared with neighbouring countries. The management of these transboundary resources requires groundwater and other water data to be shared between riparian states. The NGA has proved particularly useful in this regard and may inspire similar initiatives in neighbouring countries.
The National Groundwater Archive in South Africa is one of the success stories of the #OpenWaterData campaign. Access the archive here.