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Lani Van Vuuren  
Renowned SA hydrogeologist passes away

The water research community is still reeling with shock following the sudden death Prof Gerrit van Tonder (61) of the Institute for Groundwater Studies at the University of the Free State.

Prof van Tonder died on 22 April 2014, apparently of a massive heart attack. A well respected figure in the groundwater community, he had close to 40 years’ experience in hydrogeology, with a focus on aquifer mechanics, groundwater management and pollution. He published over 47 scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals. He was a long-standing funded researcher of the Water Research Commission, contributing to more than 30 Commission projects.

Prior to his death Prof van Tonder focused his efforts on impact research around proposed shale gas mining in the Karoo. He was a peer-review member of the Karoo Water Expert Group, formed to study the hydrogeology of the Karoo Basin, and a regular speaker at debates around hydraulic fracturing.

Prof van Tonder was a good communicator with a great sense of humour as well as an excellent lecturer whose passionate instructional approaches enabled his students to internalise information and acquire knowledge.   He was also a very supportive and resourceful supervisor who always availed time for his master and doctoral students, and demonstrated remarkable patience without compromising excellence. “The groundwater community is poorer without Prof van Tonder. He was instrumental in developing groundwater hydrology and the capacity we have today. Like so many others, I will miss his engagements on a variety of issues,” said WRC Research Manager, Dr Shafick Adams.

In 2005, he was identified by the Academy of Science of South Africa as the most outstanding groundwater scientist in South Africa. He was also an honorary life member of the GWD. Prof van Tonder leaves behind his wife, Fransie, and children Sanri and Gideon.

 Article posted by : Lani van Vuuren , laniv@wrc.org.za



Prof Gerrit van Tonder
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