South Africa: Dam Owners Urged to Stick to the Rules

15 November 2019

Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu has called on dam owners across the country to adhere to dam safety legislation in the wake of extreme weather patterns.

Sisulu warned that failure to stick to the rules may prompt the department to take legal action against transgressors.

"We are faced with water security challenges as a country and key to this is deteriorating infrastructure. I therefore urge dam owners to do their bit to safeguard water infrastructure by conducting the required evaluations, which will not only protect society from potential dam failures but will also ensure guaranteed storage, especially in the current climatic conditions facing our country," the Minister said.

Sisulu noted that for the 2018/19 period, at least 313 dam safety evaluation reports were expected to be submitted to the Dam Safety Office of the department but only 207 (66%) were submitted, which is a decline compared to the 81% achievement in the previous years.

"Each dam must have a safety inspection conducted every five years. In this case, dam owners are required to arrange for the execution of a formal dam safety inspection by an approved professional person (APP).

"The department remains committed to safeguarding water resources in the country. As such, dam owners are encouraged to play their role by abiding to dam safety legislation, as set out in the National Water Act," Sisulu said.

The department owns 20 of the country's largest dams in terms of storage capacity, and is mandated to register and classify all dams across the country.

It also ensures that all dams with a safety risk are designed, built and altered to comply with the appropriate engineering standards.

Sisulu explained that the first step for owners is to apply for the classification of the dam, and the department then informs the applicant of the classification of the dam and of the further procedures.

"If the dam is classified as a Category 1 dam, meaning a dam with a safety risk, a dam owner would be required to apply for a licence for construction. If the dam is classified as a Category II or III dam, the services of an approved professional person must be obtained.

"The APP must apply for a licence to construct on behalf of the dam owner. This involves the submission of an application form, design report, engineering drawings and construction specifications," Sisulu said.

With below average rainfall expected in mid-December, the Minister said it is vital for water infrastructure to be up to standard to ensure water security and help alleviate the drought that has firmly gripped some parts of the country.

Sisulu urged water boards, municipalities, and the agricultural and mining industries to ensure they conduct dam safety evaluations and implement the recommendations made by engineers based on the findings of the dam safety evaluation reports.

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