The Past, Present and Future of Groundwater – Inspiration from the IAH Congress

by Kerstin Danert, RWSN/Skat

The 43rd Congress of the International Association of Hydrogeologists (IAH) brings together 800 specialists from all around the world. It is the first morning, and I am already inspired. Although the Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN) has worked alongside and interacted considerably with IAH over its history, I personally only joined IAH this year. However, I am very glad to have become a member of such a warm and committed association which explicitly recognises the importance of cooperation between groundwater experts and other specialists. IAH is about much moth than sophisticated technical models. And so I encourage other RWSN members with an interest in groundwater to do the same, and benefit from being exchange with others.

So what is the talk here so far? The opening speakers have emphasised population growth and migration to cities (including Montpellier, where this congress is hosted) several times. These changes, alongside climate change, present a key challenge for groundwater specialists and associated professions.

Learning about the history of IAH from John Chilton, current executive director, I am struck by the journey that the association has made since it was established in September 1956. Having gone through three stages of formation, growth and consolidation over 60 years, the exchange, publications and outreach of the association are impressive. It was IAH that commissioned some of the first hydrogeological maps in the late 1950’s. Fast forwarding to today, there are now four new national chapters recently opened in New Zealand, Tunisia, Turkey and Iraq. Certainly, we, as RWSN have much to learn from IAH. But more importantly we need to think about how we can join hands to bring about change in key areas.

I am particularly inspired by The Time Capsule, which enables us to learn from some of the greatest minds of groundwater – you can watch and listen to Charles Vernon Theis (of the Theis test pump equation) and many others. A big thanks to IAH for getting these on line and enabling the next generation us to learn from and be inspired by the wise words of those with such experience.

Looking forwards, IAH’s Burdon Network is particularly relevant for IAH and RWSN. And we should both scratch our heads to figure out how to the harness investment, personnel and partnerships needed to raise capacity in the south so that groundwater management and development can be effectively managed and developed.

A brief exchange yesterday evening with Shami Puri has raised the importance of training, equipping and retaining the technicians to collect the data and undertake the measurements much needed to raise understanding of groundwater in Africa, and other emerging regions of the world; and with Callist Tindimugaya us about plans to develop a water training institute in Uganda. There will be many more exchanges here, I eagerly wait to see what else I can lean as the Congress continues.