The greatest groundwater story never told
Dr Roger Parsons is a hydrogeologist with almost 40 years’ experience. After graduating from Rhodes University with an M.Sc. that focused on the exploration of groundwater resources south and west of Graaff-Reinet, Roger had a stint with the Department of Water Affairs in Pretoria before relocating to the Cape to join the CSIR’s Groundwater Programme. He established Parsons & Associates Specialist Groundwater Consultants in 1996, with much of his field-based work being in the Western and Southern Cape and parts of the Karoo.
He also helped develop tools to quantify the groundwater component of the Reserve and assess the suitability of sites for landfills. In 2014 he was awarded a Ph.D by the Institute of Groundwater Studies (UFS) for his research into the role of groundwater in sustaining Groenvlei just outside of Sedgefield.
It was a family holiday to the Kgalagadi TFP that piqued his interest into the role of groundwater in establishing the Gemsbok National Park in 1931. To provide context, he had to learn about an environment very different from what he was used to. In addition to the geology and geomorphology, he learned about the change in climate, about the people that lived and moved into the area and the wholesale slaughter of game by biltong poachers. Since then, more than 100 boreholes have been drilled in the Park providing a good dataset on a complex and varied groundwater system. Few people know about the original boreholes that provided the foundation for the successful conservation effort that has ensued, and Roger thinks it’s a story worth telling.