www dot. No it is not a website address for a 9 gag type site or even the latest geological software/books/techniques. It is three of the w’s which many of the hydrogeologists are passionate about. These are water, obviously, waqf, which is the Islamic term for sustainable development and the third w could be your wife or work, either way you are married to both. Some academics lost their wives due to loving their work, but that is not a topic we will delve into....yet.
The father of hydrogeology, not Moses because he struck a rock and water came spilling out of it, but the Frenchman Henry Darcy could be thanked for the science we have today. Hydrogeology is a mere 150 odd years old, which truly makes it an infant in comparison to other sciences. We see great works penned by research scientists like Jacob Baer, which push the boundaries of porous media as a science. It shows that the limits of knowledge are unknown and we do not know what groundwater has in store for us over the next 150 years. This is particularly true with Shale Gas fever hitting South Africa.
A former Professor of mine said something very profound about aspects of Hydrogeology many years ago. “This is part art part science”, is what he told us in a lecture on pump test analysis. One could also say that experience plays a major role in analysing and interpreting data. In other cases the trained eye could be blinded by external factors unrelated to the science. Hydrogeology is partially observational and partially numerical, and more recently everyone seems to want to be a hydrogeologist due to the previously mentioned shale gas boom. This third w for water is partially skewed towards subsurface fluid flow as hydrogeologists never really received the attention the science deserved. I say this due to the fact that it was the Cinderella of the water sciences, to loosely quote a former Professor of mine, and now has risen to fame and popularity like a rugby prodigy waiting to be injured.
The second w for waqf can actually be traced back 1400 years to the Arabian Peninsula where one of the first charitable endowments, which is a loose translation for waqf, was actually a well. The well of Rumah was used for community development purposes and was a true reflection of the application of social entrepreneurship for sustainable development purposes. The owner of the well saw it not as work, but a sacrifice for the greater good. This leads us into the final w, it could be your wife or work, but we will focus on the professional.
Work is work, but if love what you do you will never have to work a day in your life. This age old adage still holds true, especially for hydrogeologists. This could be attributed to the combination of skills we have and situations we find ourselves in on a day to day basis. From the back office to the bush and everything in between, it truly never is a dull moment. Initially my thoughts on the science and work in this field were dreams of data mining, or being a desktop hydrogeologist as a former co-worker of mine said. That bubble burst very quickly when I realised that during my Masters I was merely a cog in the machine at a Chinese sweatshop. I never knew that my passion, hard work and determination for a subject matter could be turned into a financial venture for somebody else.
At the end of the day, the size of the packet you take home is of little importance when compared to the great experiences one gains from working in this arena. Travelling the world, major cities and remote locations included, meeting new people, some of them seemingly strange, and having coffee and croissants in cafes around small research facilities with some of the greatest minds are some of the perks.