New dam possibly to be constructed in Onderberg



27-01-2021
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Lowvelder
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Two of the prospective sites for the construction of a much-needed new dam in the Crocodile River catchment area are in the Onderberg.

This dam will alleviate the shortage of water supply to the Lowveld and is set to be constructed by 2028. The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) has set a prospective date for the construction of such a dam in Crocodile River subcatchment is set for 2027/28 at a cost of around R1 billion.

“The DWS developed a strategy to reconcile water requirements with water availability for Mbombela and surrounding areas,” said DWS spokesperson, Sputnik Ratau.

“The strategy prescribed a number of interventions that needed to be implemented in time to balance the system for the next 25 years and beyond. It is currently being updated while at the same time tracking the progress on achievement of some of the identified options.”

Three potential development sites have been identified, namely Boschjeskop Dam on the Nels River, Mountain View Dam on the Kaap River and Strathmore Dam, an off-channel dam near the confluence of the Kaap and Crocodile rivers.

A large part of the Lowveld is dependent on the Crocodile River for water for urban, rural and agricultural activities.

According to spokesperson of the Malalane Irrigation Board, Nancy O’Farrell,

“The Crocodile river is extremely over-subscribed due to an increased amount of development, illegal abstraction of water and international obligation to deliver increased allocation to Mozambique, low rainfall and a low flow in the river”.

O’Farrell added that Kwena Dam is currently only 28 per cent full and taking severe strain. In addition, irrigators in the Onderberg are already restricted to 60 per cent of their allocated water. A few complexities have caused delays with the construction of the dam, one of which is the prospective sites’ border with Mozambique and Swaziland.

“In accordance with the Revised SADC Protocol on Shared Watercourses, it will be necessary to ensure that the other co-basins, namely Mozambique and Swaziland, do not object to South Africa’s plan to develop another dam on this shared river system,” Ratau said.

Another complexity is financial constraint. However, according to Ratau, “The DWS has allocated funding for this project on the 2020/21 financial year budget”.

The Malalane Irrigation Board said the dam cannot come soon enough for businesses. “If more dams are not built very soon, there is a potential risk that the water that is available will not be able to sustain the farmers and communities in the area. The job losses and the ripple effect of loss of revenue for agriculture and the community will be catastrophic,” said O’Farrell.

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