Hydrologist

Agriculture plays a significant role in the South African economy, contributing 2.4% towards GDP, employing around 810 000 people and key in securing food security. It is also one of the most vulnerable sectors in the context of climate change, given its significant dependence on water resources. In South Africa agriculture uses an estimated 63% of total water available. In this context, hydrology plays a critical role in understanding and managing the movement and distribution of water for sustainable use.

Hydrologists study the quality, quantity, distribution, circulation and physical properties of surface and underground water. They study the impact of precipitation and identify water supply sources to evaluate the effect of human activities on the quantity and quality of water as well as study its interactions between components within the hydrological cycle. They also map and model future water levels by tracking usage and precipitation data and advise on effective water use programmes.

Hydrologists work with agricultural scientists, engineers and other professionals to ensure acceptable water levels are used. They spend a lot of time in the field in catchment areas and consumer areas for observation. And spend sometime in a laboratory and office to analyse collected data.

Skills

Hydrologists need to have a comprehensive understanding of the hydrological cycle and an understanding of water policies and regulations. They will further benefit from:

  • Extensive research and fieldwork capability
  • Ability to geographically map and model hydrological data
  • Excellent analytical and problem-solving ability
  • Good verbal and written communication and presentation skills

Tasks

Collect and analyse water and soil samples

Create, test and interpret prediction models and maps

Evaluate the feasibility of water-related projects

Prepare written reports and presentations on research findings

Studies

B.Sc., B.Sc. (Hons), M.Sc. in Hydrology at NWU, UKZN, Univen and Unizulu

B.Sc., B.Sc. (Hons), M.Sc. in Geology specialising in Hydrogeology at UFS, UP and Wits

Employers

National, provincial and local government.

Research institutions.

Water utility companies.

Private consultancies.

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