Relax! The Vaal Dam and others won’t collapse due to heavy rains, says water department

The Vaal Dam is full for the first time since 2017, as are most dams in the catchment area. File photo.
The Vaal Dam is full for the first time since 2017, as are most dams in the catchment area. File photo.
Image: Water and sanitation department

While many celebrate the Vaal Dam reaching 100% capacity on Monday, the department of water and sanitation has moved to reassure people the dam will not collapse under the additional pressure.

Wally Ramokopa, director in the dam safety unit of the department, said the likelihood of dams collapsing from the ongoing rainfalls is unlikely as their infrastructure is built to withstand heavy rains and flooding.

“There is no need for people to be alarmed about possible water infrastructure collapse,” he said of more than 5,000 registered dams in the country.

Parts of SA have been hit by heavy rains due to the effects of Cyclone Eloise.

The department said the downpours are expected to continue until mid-February.

It said it has received two reports of potential damage to water infrastructure. These are from the Pioneer Dam in the Kruger National Park and a barrage in Phalaborwa where a radial gate failed after being opened to release floods after the cyclone.

“At Kruger National Park, the dam had reached 100% capacity and there were fears  the spillway may not be sufficient. However, the dam was able to safely route the floods without causing damage,” said Ramokopa.

He said dam owners are required to arrange for the execution of a formal dam safety inspection by an approved professional person (APP) at least every five years.

“When carrying out the five yearly safety evaluation, the APP will conduct a flood frequency analysis to check whether the dam is able to route through different flood occurrences. This helps us to anticipate whether the dam would be overtopped should a certain size of a flood occur or potentially damage the dam.”

The department also follows up to ensure recommendations are implemented.

“Failure to implement the APP's recommendations, especially when findings indicate the dam may not be safe and has the potential to fail and cause loss of life, will see the dam safety office issue directives to compel the dam owner to comply,” he said.

“The regulation makes provision for government to make the dam safe and recoup the money spent from the owner of the dam should it be necessary to prevent possible loss of life.

"About two years ago, the department was involved when part of the Middle Lake dam wall collapsed near Benoni.”

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