January 2023 Letter from the SAHS Council President

Letter from the SAHS Council President
Dr Tendai Sawunyama
January 2023

It is my great pleasure to greet you in the first quarter of the year 2023, the family of hydrologists in South Africa. As we start the year, I would like make sure hydrological community is informed of what is happening both locally and around the globe.

I am excited to be starting my first year as Council President for the newly formed South African Hydrological Society (SAHS). For many years, the hydrological sciences community in South Africa was represented by a dedicated, though relatively informal group known as the South African National Committee for International Association of Hydrological Sciences (SANCIAHS). The chairperson of SANCIAHS has been the SA national representative to the International Association of Hydrological Sciences (IAHS) and able to vote for IAHS Committees. A main task of SANCIAHS has been to organise a biennial hydrology conference and these events have served to connect our community since the 1980s. SAHS represents a growth and formalisation of this effort. After consultation with many of you, it was recognised that there was a need and an appetite to have a formal society to strengthen our community and represent our interests. SAHS was officially constituted and launched in October 2022.

I would like to take this opportunity to immensely thank the whole team who drove the establishment of the Society (the founding members) and the organisation of a successful conference. It is through the hard work and dedication of the few that this major step of starting a society has been realised. Our newly elected SAHS council is getting the ball rolling. We are currently in the process of having the Society registered as a Non-Profit Organisation (NPO) and building SAHS representation in the South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions (SACNASP), becoming a recognised Voluntary Association of SACNASP and ensuring there are experienced hydrologists in the Water Resource Science Professional Advisory Committee.

Beyond the borders of South Africa, I am happy to announce to you that the Society, through the Council President, is represented at the IAHS. In this capacity, I am looking forward to attending the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG) Assembly (https://www.iugg2023berlin.org/) in July 2023, an event which takes place once in four years. Participation will assist the Society to link with the international community and identify areas for improvement and learning when looking at our future research agenda. In addition, the Society is also represented in the IAHS Committee for Africa, which will participate in the formulation of the science plan for the new decade (Cordoba meeting and Discussion Forum at https://iahs.info/879.draft). This committee plays key role in capacity building, strengthening, and stimulating the participation of African professionals and researchers in IAHS activities, with a particular focus on young professionals. This includes continued support to the UNESCO-Friend Water and to the WaterNet networks in Southern Africa. We encourage various institutions and universities to promote the participation of young hydrologists in SAHS and in these regional and global networks.

As a Society our vision is to have young vibrant hydrologists who are willing to grow the Society and be able to take the baton forward. South Africa has many challenges to face, with growing water scarcity at the same time as growing flood risks and damage. We urgently need to build capacity. Many young hydrologists have limited opportunities to gain the practical experience that they need to be effective in the water resources space, such as experience in field-based and remote sensing observation, data science, modelling, and resources management. South Africa, though for many still considered a developing country, has maintained a high standard globally in several aspects of water resources management. However, it appears that in recent years there has been some stagnation of further development of the techniques used, a decline in monitoring, and a growing backlog in infrastructure maintenance. Successful implementation of sustainable water resources management is linked directly to local capacity to identify and to respond to ongoing local issues and needs.

Hydrologists must increase the practical value of their research and provide information to enhance the security of water resource systems to meet growing human needs and maintain the ecological integrity of the environment. Current practice indicates that the future direction of hydrology research and water resources management will require a cross-disciplinary approach with other scientific communities. There is a clear need to develop innovative strategies for long-term capacity development with South Africa. We are calling upon the hydrological community, the young and the old, to look at the broader picture of the future water security of the country and how we can support policy and decision makers. SAHS provides a platform for you to share ideas and opportunities in this regard.

I wish you all a fruitful year and your continued support of the Society through membership and mentorship.