Field Hydrogeology in Malawi
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September 9, 2019

Jamie Rattray recently joined the Envireau Water team after a year of technical experience as a Field Hydrogeologist for the University of Strathclyde working in Malawi. In this post, Jamie talks about some of the work he has been involved in his previous role:

MSc Hydrogeology: University of Strathclyde

“During my Hydrogeology MSc I had the opportunity to conduct my thesis research in Malawi. I worked as part of a small team in collaboration with Malawian Government and Local NGOs to install a series of multilevel piezometers. Before installation several abandoned boreholes were investigated using pumping tests, borehole camera, deviation tool and chemical analysis to determine if the sites are applicable to study. After selection and installation, the piezometers were subjected to slug tests and further chemical analysis to ascertain potential inter-connectivity between aquifer units.

Field Hydrogeology

After submitting my thesis, I was offered a position with the University as a Field Hydrogeologist to conduct research on behalf of the University and Scottish Government under the Climate Justice Fund: Waters Futures Programme. Within this role I worked on hydrogeological data analysis, needs assessment analysis, water quality testing, borehole forensics, borehole rehabilitation, borehole decommissioning, drilling supervision, student supervision, government liaison and capacity building.

The larger projects within this role were to establish a baseline of available water assets for specific areas or districts by surveying boreholes and conducting pumping tests with subsequent analysis to determine the groundwater potential of the areas ranging from 3 to 5 km. This analysis then formed part of a needs assessment for the local communities based upon recent household level surveys. The field data collected was inputted directly on to mWater (an MIS system designed for water resource management) so that all team members and government can view data in real-time.

All relevant historical, geological, hydrogeological, chemical, household level and political information would form part of an assessment to determine the best target area for a new abstraction borehole (we generally targeted areas in which the current assets did not meet the local demand). After all stakeholders agreed on the chosen target areas, we then supervised the drilling, installation and testing of the new assets.

A large wealth of data was collected throughout the year of research, the data will be used for several Phd research papers and wider research for the University of Strathclyde. I’m still working with the University of Strathclyde on some academic research which will hopefully be published in the near future.

Professional Development

Throughout my work as a Field Hydrogeologist, I attended several conferences in which work the work myself and colleagues were undertaking was showcased. They were also a great opportunity for Malawians within Government, Universities, Drilling companies or private sector water specialists to have their say.

A highlight of my previous role was supervising 7 students whilst conducting their MSc Hydrogeology thesis research in Malawi. The research conducted within this period was diverse and challenging: Borehole Forensics, Chemical Rehabilitation, Geophysics, Geochemistry and Water Service Level Analysis. Many aspects of the student research were new to myself and to Malawi so It was a very valuable learning experience for all parties involved.

This experience has given me an interest in providing mentoring in the future and has also highlighted the importance of continuing to develop through a diverse range of challenging projects.”

If you’d like to know more about Jamie’s experience in Malawi, or if you have a hydrogeological problem you want to discuss, get in touch with him on 01332 871 884.