The story of Jan Dirk Smidt

Jan Dirk Smidt (29, The Hague) is a geohydrologist at Witteveen+Bos and works with groundwater. In 2021, he participated in the WaterWorX project in Uganda. He is now back on Dutch soil and is working with colleagues on sustainable water management, including for the ‘Eternal Spring’ project.

Father and son

‘When I was I child, I said to my father, who is also a groundwater expert: ‘I’m not going to do the same thing as you.’ During my studies, I was interested in geology, plate tectonics, physics and rivers; but, ultimately, I realised that I enjoyed groundwater the most. You can’t directly see what’s happening underground, which is what makes it so interesting. But by making measurements and calculations, you gradually start to learn more about it. I’m good at solving puzzles in a structured way, and I use that a lot in my work. Groundwater is also important and useful for everyone.’

Sustainable groundwater locations in Uganda

‘We lived in Egypt for my father’s work until I was six. As a young boy, I went with him to the dry desert, where suddenly a well appeared that produced water. It found it really fascinating, even though I had no idea what my father did. He was working on sustainable water management in the area around the lower Nile. Years later, in 2021, I started doing comparable work in Uganda in the upper Nile area. On behalf of Witteveen+Bos, I work as a geohydrologist for VEI on WaterWorX, a collaboration aimed at improving access to sustainable water services. I work with a team from the national Ugandan drinking water company to find new, sustainable groundwater extraction locations. I lived in Kampala in 2021 while working on this project.’

The Eternal Spring

‘I was involved in just about every step in Uganda, whereas in the Netherlands I stay within my own discipline. The best project I worked on in the Netherlands was the ‘Eternal Spring’ study on the Sallandse Heuvelrug. It’s a theoretical concept for sustainable drinking water extraction based on natural precipitation surplus in an area. Landscaping agency H+N+S and Vitens won the Eo Wijers Award for this in 2020. During the study, I produced some 2D groundwater models of the area and used calculations to test how groundwater levels might change under certain conditions. Traditionally, the Netherlands has focused on keeping itself dry, while the challenge now is to actually retain water. I’m hoping the project will be continued.’

'Groundwater is a basic need'

- Jan Dirk Smidt -

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