South African geology, geomorphology and climate are distinctly variable, resulting in a complex hydrological cycle superimposed on equally complex ground conditions. With fractured and karstic systems dominating the hydrogeology, thick vadose zones comprising soil and rock and at highly variable moisture conditions contribute to complex hydrostratigraphic systems comprising various confining and hydraulically connected units. This paper proposed standard terminology for basic concepts pertaining to the description of ground and water in the subsurface to eventually propose a hydrostratigraphic classification based on abiotic factors fairly constant over short periods of time (geology, geomorphology and climate), as well as those temporally highly variable (climate) and those introduced by human involvement (society). Ten major hydrostratigraphic units are eventually described, namely the Cape Fold Belt, Kalahari Desert, Witwatersrand Supergroup, Malmani Subgroup, Cenozoic Coastal Deposits, Saldanian Basement, Karoo Main Basin, Namaqua-Natal Metamorphics, Waterberg Group, and Archaean Granitoids.

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