Hydropedology is the study of the relationship between soil and water, and its application in soil and water management. In South Africa, hydropedology assessments are valuable tools for understanding and managing the country’s water resources. In previous years, soil and watercourses were assessed in isolation, however as a result of increasing pressures within the overall catchment areas becoming exorbitantly more in recent years, attributed to population growth, the need to assess the influence of activities on the hydropedological flow paths from crest to valley bottom is being realised.

South Africa is a water-scarce country, with most of its water resources located in the eastern part of the country. Water is a vital resource for agriculture, industry, and human consumption. However, the country’s water resources are under threat from various factors, including climate change, population growth, urbanization, and pollution.

Hydropedology assessments provide valuable information on the spatial and temporal variability of soil and water resources, their distribution, and the factors that influence them. These assessments help to identify the dominant hydropedological flowpaths within the landscape and in doing so can guide the sustainable use of water resources and development within the upstream catchment area in an effort to preserve the primary flow drivers of the downstream watercourses.

By providing information on the recharge, storage, and flow of water in the soil, hydropedology assessments can aid in improving water management in South Africa. The data gathered can be used to guide the positioning and development of water harvesting systems such as dams, infiltration basins, and contour bunds. The guidance provided by the hydropedology study can ensure that the dominant hydropedological flowpaths are preserved and encourage sustainable development within the catchment area.

Furthermore, hydropedology assessments can identify areas where groundwater is vulnerable to contamination. This information can be used to develop groundwater protection plans and to regulate activities that may affect groundwater quality. Hydropedology assessments can also identify areas where the recharge of groundwater is high, which can lead to the development of sustainable groundwater abstraction strategies.

In recent years, hydropedology assessments have been set as water use and environmental authorisation requirements by the competent authorities, such as the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) and to a lesser degree the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE). The information provided to the relevant Departments allows the case officer to make an informed decision on whether to approve or deny applications, as well as assists with identifying key avoidance and mitigation measures that may need to be implemented by the applicant to ensure the sustainable development of the landscape.

In short, hydropedology assessments are essential for ensuring the long-term availability and quality of water resources in South Africa. These studies have proven to be vital in guiding sustainable management practices within the catchment areas of South Africa and the field as a whole is expected to grow in the years to come. Should you require any hydropedology, wetland or aquatic works please feel free to contact ENVASS on 012 460 9768 or We look forward to hearing from you!

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