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South African Dam Report 2011

Well over a third of the major dams around the country that are owned and managed by the department of water affairs are in need of repair, MPs heard.

South African dam report. The state of South africa's damsBriefing Parliament’s water affairs portfolio committee, deputy director-general for water resources infrastructure, Cornelius Ruiters, said of the 359 dams owned by the department, 161 needed “rehabilitation”.

Repair work had been completed on 22 of them, and 36 were currently in “various stages” of rehabilitation. A total of 45 dams had been classified as “high priority” in terms of the work that needed to be done.

Ruiters said the rehabilitation work required on 96 (60 percent) of the 161 dams was due to “inadequate maintenance eventually resulting in dam safety problems”.

A total of 153 (80 percent) of the 161 dams had insufficient spillway capacity, which meant water could end up spilling over the wall and damaging the structure in the event of a major flood.

A similar number had “inadequate outlet systems”.

About 16 (10 percent) of the dams had “geological/foundation problems”, and the same number “slope stability problems”.

Ruiters, whose department manages some of the largest reservoirs in the country, including the Gariep and the Vaal dams, did not name any of the dams he said were in need of repair.

According to a document tabled at the briefing, the 359 dams owned by the department have a replacement value of more than R72 billion.

In recent years, water affairs has increased spending on its dam safety rehabilitation programme.

“The total expenditure up to September last year was R1.2 billion,” Ruiters said.

Tables contained in the document show most of South Africa’s ageing water infrastructure, including big dams, was built during the Seventies and Eighties. Capital replacement costs over the next 20 years are forecast to exceed R40 billion.

According to Ruiters, there are about 4000 dams in South Africa that are registered with the department’s dam safety authority. Those not owned by water affairs are either municipal dams or privately owned.

Of the department’s 359 dams, 218 are listed in the International Commission on Large Dams’ register.

Source: Times Live

The state of neglect of South Africa’s dams is increasing the doubt many South Africans have as to whether the national government is able to provide households and industry with water in the not to distant future. This is spurred South Africans to secure their own private water supply by harvesting rainwater and storing it in tanks. Already, in certain communities rainwater is of higher quality of that of municipal water. This has lead to several South African to only resort to municipal water once their rainwater supply is insufficient.

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