South Africa is known for its rich culture and magnificent landscapes. While most people associate large dams with the first world nations, there are massive dams that South Africa possesses. Not only are these reservoirs a tourist attraction, but they also ensure that the country has adequate stores of water to facilitate both domestic and economic activities. The largest Dams in South Africa are a must-visit for local and international tourists!
Dams are barriers that inhibit the stream of water to create reservoirs. They are mainly used to mitigate flooding and to store water for activities such as human consumption, irrigation, aquaculture, and industrial use. Some reservoirs are used to generate hydropower. Typically, dams are categorised based on their length, height, width, and the amount of water they can hold. What dam holds the most water? China’s Three Gorges Dam is the biggest globally. The biggest dams in South Africa are explored here.
1. Gariep Dam
Which is the largest dam in South Africa? Gariep reservoir is South Africa’s largest water reservoir. It is located close to the town of Norvalspont that borders the Eastern Cape and Free State provinces. It is built on Orange River in the gorge that serves as the entrance to the Ruigte Valley. Its height is 88 m, and its length is 914 m, and the concrete used in its construction is about 1.73 million m3. What dam holds the most water? Gariep Dam can store 5, 340,000 mega-litres of water.
When full, it stretches across 370 km2 and can generate up to 360 MW of electricity. This reservoir that was initially named after Hendrick Verwoerd, the first South African Prime Minister, was renamed to Gariep in 1996 after the end of apartheid. The reservoir is used for industrial purposes, irrigation, and domestic uses. Feeding it are the Orange and Caledon rivers and the Slykspruit, Palmietspruit, Brakspruit, Brakspruit and Oudagspruit.
2. Vanderkloof Dam
The Vanderkloof dam, previously called the P.K. Le Roux reservoir, is also fed by the Orange and Berg Rivers as well as two streams. It is situated about 81 miles (130 km) away from the Gariep reservoir and is the second largest in the country. It has the highest wall whose height is 108 m and can hold 3,187.557 million m3 of water.
The Vanderkloof reservoir stretches across a surface of 51.52 square miles (133.43 km2) when full. Since its commissioning in 1977, people along the 1,400 km stretch of the Orange River use the water for domestic purposes.
3. Sterkfontein Dam
Located close to the Harrismith town in Free State and constructed by the Department of Water Affairs, the Sterkfontein Dam is the third latest reservoir in the country. The name Sterkfontein refers to a strong fountain in the Afrikaans language. The reservoir was redirected from Tugela River following the shortage of water in Johannesburg in the 1960s and 1970s. It has the second highest wall that measures 93 m (305 ft), and it is the largest earth fill reservoir. When full, the Sterkfontein Dam can hold up to 2,616,000 mega-liters of water and stretches over a surface area of 67.26 km2 (25.97 square miles).
The reservoir is primarily used for domestic and industrial purposes, but its hazard potential is considered high. This reservoir has a protected area known as the Sterkfontein Dam Nature Reserve which is a tourist attraction zone. The dam is unique because it was not built over a river but along a stream. It also has another reservoir inside it called the Driekloof Dam. When Sterkfontein is full, the Driekloof Dam is submerged to the top of its spillway.
4. Vaal Dam
The Vaal dam is located 77 km south of the OP Tambo International Airport. It is constructed on the Vaal River and is also fed by the Wilge and Klip rivers and Grootspuit, and Molspuit. When the water levels drop too low, the dam is supplied by the Sterkfontein Dam. Its shoreline stretches over 800 km. The dam is the fourth largest by water capacity, but the second largest judging by are. How deep is the Vaal Dam? It has a wall that measures 63.5 m and holds up to 2,609,799,000 cubic metres of water. The surface area is 322 square km. The dam was primarily created to attenuate flooding.
The size of this reservoir allows for plenty of water sports among them flying boats as well as fishing. Its beauty is enhanced by the presence of a 5 km long island that hosts the Round the Island Yacht Race that is held annually. The reservoir is home to many species of fish and birds.
5. Pongolapoort Dam/ Lake Jozini
Located about 280 km north-east of Durban, the Pongolapoort/ Lake Jozini is constructed on the Phongolo River which is its sole perennial feeder. Although its hazard potential is high, this reservoir was primarily built for irrigation purposes. The reservoir has a wall whose height is 89 m. Its total water capacity is 2,445,900,000 m3.
Before the construction of this arch-type reservoir in 1973, the land was a conservation area. Today, the water reservoir is home to a variety of wildlife including elephants, rhinos, buffaloes, giraffes, hippos, zebras and many others. Over 350 species of birds are also found here. There is a concern that the water is now heavily contaminated with agricultural pesticides that threaten the wildlife’s survival.
6. Bloemhof Dam
Formerly known as the Oppermansdrif Dam, the Bloemhof reservoir is constructed at the convergence of the Vall and Vet rivers. It is situated along the border of the Free State and North West provinces. Its length is 4,270 meters. Due to its shallowness, the reservoir occupies a large area to store more water. The reservoir holds up to 1,269,000,000 m3 of water and the wall has a height of 33 meters only. When full, it stretches over an area of 223 km2. In addition to the Vaal and Vet rivers, it is also fed by the Vals and Sand Rivers.
On either side of the reservoir are protected areas that boast of being home to numerous species of birds and animals. It is one of the best fishing destinations. These are the Bloemhof Dam Nature Reserve on the North West side and Sandveld Nature Reserve in Free State.
7. Kruismansrivier Dam
Located in Western Cape, the Kruismansrivier reservoir is constructed along the Kruis River. It was opened in 1992 and the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry runs it. Its wall has a height of 18 metres, extends across a surface area of 18 Ha, and the reservoir holds up to 1,500,000 m³. It is used for irrigation, and the hazard potential of this water is also considerably high.
8. Theewaterskloof Dam
The Theewaterskloof reservoir is built on the Sonderend River that is situated close to Villersdorp in Western Cape. It holds up to 480 million cubic meters of water and is the leading supplier of water in Cape Town. The reservoir occupies a surface area of 48 km2. In addition to domestic use, it is also used for industrial purposes as well as irrigation. One of the leading social activities in this dam is the annual Synergy Live Music Festival that takes place towards the close of each year. Other activities that are held here include golfing, hiking, water sports, fishing and biking.
9. Greater Brandvlei Dam
The Greater Brandvlei is an amalgamation of the original Brandvlei Dam and the Kwaggaskloof Dam in 1989. It is built on a tributary of the Breede River, and it is primarily used for irrigation. The dam’s wall has a height of 21.5 m, and its length is 1250 m. The total capacity is 459,000,000 m3, and when full, the reservoir stretches to 4110 Ha.
The area is widely used for fishing. The presence of submerged weed and partly submerged shrubs, willow trees, reeds and stumps may make fishing a risky venture, so people who visit the area must exercise caution and listen to the instructions from the officials.
10. Heyshope Dam
This earth-fill reservoir that was opened in 1986 is located in Mpumalanga. It impounds the Assegaai River and the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry runs it. The height of its wall is 28.5 m, and the length is 1030 m. Its total water capacity is 453 4400 000 m³, and the catchment area covers a surface area of 5 023.8 ha.
Numerous reservoirs in South Africa are used for domestic, irrigation, industrial purposes as well as for hydropower production. They are also tourist attraction sites that allow different activities such as fishing and water sports. The dams differ in size and holding capacity. Protecting these reservoirs is necessary to mitigate flooding or water shortage in the country.