Hydrology is a field of study that focuses on the management of water. A hydrologist makes an accurate assessment of the available water and future needs and makes recommendations on long-term management practices.

Hydrologists study and do research on the waters of the earth, its distribution on and below the surface of the earth and in the atmosphere. They try to secure the optimal utilisation of the country’s water resources by advising civil engineers on the flow of rivers and where to build the most economical water schemes, to ensure that sufficient water of acceptable quality can be supplied in the most cost-effective manner.

They also advise design engineers on the frequency and magnitude of floods in order to minimise flood risks and to ensure the best operation procedures for flood control and drought periods. They identify underground water as sources of water supply, evaluate the effect of man’s activities on the quantity and quality of water, and study the interaction between components within the hydrological cycle.

Water is a scarce commodity and part of the job of a hydrologist is to identify problem areas and make recommendations as to how these problems should be solved. A hydrologist should understand the needs of water users, including agricultural, domestic and industrial users, as well as the possible options available for water resource development.

Work is not confined to an office, but includes short periods of fieldwork. For geohydrologists, fieldwork is particularly important. A great deal of work is done outdoors when visits are made to catchment areas, rivers, dams and consumer areas for observation. Work indoors is carried out in offices and laboratories where field information is received, analysed and interpreted, and where water is tested for its chemical, physical and biological quality. Office work also includes administrative duties such as the compilation and editing of reports, the processing of data, liaison with clients and planning of new projects.

Personal Requirements

  • fond of travelling and outdoor life
  • like to do research and analyse data
  • have initiative
  • able to work independently
  • work accurately
  • physically healthy and have stamina
  • computer skills

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics, Physical Science 
Recommended subjects: Geography

What to Study

Degree: BSc majoring in one of the following: Hydrology, Geology, Geography, Biochemistry, Microbiology, Chemistry, Engineering, Statistics, Computer Science, Applied Mathematics, Mathematics, Physics. Hydrology courses can be followed at UKZN, UV, UZ. Groundwater Studies - UFS.

Post-graduate studies: for appointment as a hydrologist, the minimum requirement is an honours degree, with one or more of the following as the principal field of study:

  • Applied Hydrology: Computer Science, Operations Research, Statistics, Civil Engineering
  • Geohydrology: Geology, Geohydrology, Geophysics, Geochemistry, Applied Geophysics and Mathematics
  • Hydrological Research: Chemistry, Soil Physics, Botany, Zoology, Geography
  • Basic fields of study: Hydrology, Mathematics, Applied Mathematics, Physics, Geography, Chemistry
  • Water Quality: Botany, Zoology, Microbiology, Chemistry and Limnology
The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry offers an in-service training programme in the following form:
  • Internal lectures
  • Seminars
  • Field training
  • Computer programming
  • Analytical methods


  • The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry
  • CSIR
  • water boards and municipalities
  • universities and universities of technology
  • engineering firms
  • self-employment, a skilled hydrologist can open a private practice and act as a consultant

Getting Started

  • arrange to speak to a hydrologist about this type of career
  • try to arrange a visit to the Hydrological Research Institute of the Department of Water Affairs near Roodeplaat Dam, or the equivalent

Programmes by Study Institutions

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