Umvoto has a holistic approach to finding environmentally- and socially-sustainable solutions for its clients. We are committed to scientific and technological excellence in our field, offering groundbreaking and cost-effective solutions to water resource, disaster risk and social challenges.

Umvoto is locally and internationally acclaimed for its expertise in primary, fractured, and karstic aquifers. Our team’s unrivalled knowledge of geological and hydrogeological processes forms the basis for highly successful groundwater resource evaluation, exploration, development, monitoring and management.  Our expertise and experience, together with engineering associates, allows us to deliver turnkey projects covering every step, from geological mapping, borehole siting, borehole drilling and testing to water in the tap. 

Given the growing concern around water resource contamination and the legal need for due diligence, this expertise is also applied, with predictive modelling tools, to determine site contamination and groundwater pollution with a view to design the most appropriate remediation measures. 

Surface and groundwater modelling simulate flow and transport processes overland and underground, improving our understanding of these processes and informing decisions that affect them. With a dedicated team of modellers, Umvoto delivers solutions tailored to the client and project’s needs, integrated within project workflows to obtain the greatest benefit from the modelling process throughout the project lifespan.

Underpinning Umvoto’s monitor-model-manage approach to both surface and groundwater water resources is a solid foundation of field knowledge and hands-on experience, with an emphasis on ground-truthing exploration hypotheses and wellfield management. We have led our competitors in implementing an adaptive management approach to groundwater resource evaluation and development in South Africa by developing systems for both evaluating surface water-groundwater interaction and integrating groundwater into existing surface water planning tools.

The Umvoto team’s vast experience with the National Water Act of South Africa and associated legislation supports strategic approaches in water resource development studies, vital to license applications, associated aquifer sustainability, as well as public liaison, securing public buy-in and preparing risk-based environmental impact assessments.

Umvoto’s geotechnical team has hands-on experience in a broad range of geological applications. Our geotechnical site investigations and design include foundation design and rehabilitation; housing projects (residential and NHBRC); retaining walls (lateral earth pressures); slope stability (design and rehabilitation); marine applications and projects; rock excavations and mining applications; dams, reservoirs and storm water applications. On larger projects, we make use of our association with senior and principal geotechnical engineers.

Umvoto has extensive experience in quantifying geohazards and their associated risks, both natural and man-made. These risk analyses and assessment services are sought by provincial, national and international clients, including the Commonwealth Secretariat and the United Nations. Our risk reduction service supports the integrated disaster management planning—developing early warning systems and hazard monitoring—required by South Africa’s Disaster Management Act. Umvoto has also consulted to several municipalities implementing the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Awareness and Preparedness for Emergencies at Local Level.  Umvoto’s experience with geohazards includes seismic risk assessments for infrastructure such as pipelines and mine developments.

Umvoto has also compiled and run advanced probabilistic and deterministic risk simulation models. We have shared our research with a number of United Nations international programmes for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Sustainable Development, as well as the Global Earth Observation Programme. Umvoto has also undertaken a Capacity Needs Assessment for Disaster Risk Management for the Kingdom of Lesotho and a Situational Analysis of DRR Policies and Practices in Malawi. The team has authored a series of educational booklets for the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) on various aspects of DRR, such as gender, land use, poverty, water and environment, as well as prepared material to promote and support DRR in Namibian Schools.

Through involvement in climate change studies in 2011, Umvoto completed a study into sea level rise and flooding risks associated with climate change for vulnerable coastlines in the Western Cape, before developing a monitoring and evaluation system for the Western Cape Climate Change Response Strategy and Action Plan. Umvoto’s founder Rowena Hay has prepared United Nations sanctioned guidelines for African community leaders to support environmental protection, poverty reduction and adaptation to climate change. In collaboration with Dr Chris Hartnady, she contributed to the UNEP guidelines on mainstream DRR for sustainable African development.

Umvoto’s GIS team plays an integral support role to other departments while offering GIS and Remote Sensing services directly to external parties. The GIS team actively uses GIS and Remote Sensing to better understand our environment, either as part of ongoing scientific research or to better meet our client’s needs. We undertake in-house research and development to solve challenges unique to our clients and to ensure better delivery of outputs which support decision making throughout all stages of a project. One such example is the novel use of Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) to monitor for surface deformation related to groundwater abstraction from confined aquifers in South Africa. By combining Umvoto’s earth science expertise with GIS and Remote Sensing, we regularly produce scientifically sound geodatabases which are frequently used by the scientific community.

Umvoto routinely provides geospatial solutions in support of groundwater exploration, environmental planning and mapping, geo-hazard assessment as well as urban planning. The team has extensive expertise in spatial analysis, suitability assessments, terrain mapping and hydrological modelling. 

The social, cultural and economic contributions of women are increasingly being acknowledged in approaches to current global crises. Umvoto conducted a study on social vulnerability in relation to water and baseline studies for a workshop on Women in Science and Technology in the SADC Region. We are an international voice for gender mainstreaming and gender-specific initiatives, having made significant contributions as consultants to the UN’s gender programmes worldwide. In 2005, Rowena Hay attended the World Conference on Disaster Reduction in Japan at the invitation of the UNISDR Africa office to present a paper on “Gender in Disaster Risk Reduction in Africa”. In 2009 she presented another paper relating to climate change on behalf of the UNISDR in Beijing, at the International Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction and Gender.