Bernard W. Ritso, member of the (British) Institution of Civil Engineers and Fellow of the Geological Society of London, entered the civil service of the Cape Colony as inspector of boring in the Water Boring Branch of the Public Works Departmen in August 1896. He was stationed in Cape Town. On 1 July 1906 he was promoted to divisional engineer in the Public Works Department and stationed at Cradock. However, he retired from the civil service on pension in 1908. He was a member of the South African Philosophical Society from 1902 to 1907. By 1903 he had joined the South African Association for the Advancement of Science (founded the previous year) and was still a member in 1906. He was also a member of the Geological Society of South Africa in 1906.
In 1901 a paper by Ritso on "Boring for water in the Cape Colony" was noted in the Minutes of Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers. He returned to the topic at the first annual congress of the South African Association for the Advancement of Science, held in Cape Town in 1903, where he delivered a paper on "The artesian wells of the Cape Colony". In this paper, which was published in the association's Report for that year (pp. 383-403), he briefly dealt with the geology, surface features, rainfall and water resources of the colony and then discussed the government's borehole drilling programme, with reference to the selection of drilling sites, the machinery used, the cost, and the results. On 13 April 1904 he delivered a paper on "Mineral exploration in the Cape Colony" before the Cape Society of Civil Engineers. It was published in the South African Architect (1904, Vol. 1, pp. 106-110).