South Africa is known for its rich culture and magnificent landscapes. These massive dams are currently the most popular tourist attraction sites even though some were built for irrigation, electricity production, and domestic and industrial use. You will love your visit to the largest dams in South Africa and our list will help you decide which one to view first.
The Department of Water and Sanitation warned about the declining dam levels in South Africa. In July 2021, the levels dropped from 83.3% to 82.8% within a week. Mr Ratau appealed to the people to keep conserving water to maintain water security as rains improve the dams' water levels.
Top 20 largest dams in South Africa
Water reservoirs bring the relief of fresh water and electricity supply in South Africa's major cities. Mzansi's urban centres would be the unhealthiest places to live in the country if these dams did not exist. Show gratitude by not littering the area or polluting the water when you visit. So, exactly what is the biggest dam in South Africa? Here is a list of SA's biggest dams according to their capacities when full:
1. Gariep (5,340,000 megalitres)
Which is the largest dam in South Africa? Gariep reservoir is South Africa’s largest water reservoir and one of the best holiday destinations in Mzansi. Its inlets are the Orange, Caledon, Slykspruit, Broekspruit, Barkspruit, Palmietspruit, and Oude Spruit rivers.
The concrete gravity-arch hydro reservoir was constructed in 1965 in Norvalspont town between the Free State and Eastern Cape provinces and opened in 1971. It is 88 m high, 914 m long, and covers a 353 million m2 surface area. There are lots of fun water sports and activities to enjoy.
2. Heyshope (4,534,400 megalitres)
The reservoir is in Mpumalanga along the Assegaai River. The height of its wall is 28.5 m, and the length is 1030 m. Its capacity is 4,534.4 million m³ and has a surface area of 5 023.8 ha. Heyshope was opened in 1986.
3. Vanderkloof (3,187,557 megalitres)
Vanderkloof is about 81 miles (130 km) away from the Gariep reservoir and is the second biggest dam in South Africa. The 3,187.557 million m3 reservoir was built in 1973 and opened in 1977. Its original name is PK Le Roux.
The reservoir is 108 m high and 766 m long. It holds 3,187,557 megalitres and sits on a 133.43 km2 region. The reservoir produces up to 360MW of energy and is a fishing paradise for yellow fish, catfish, carp, and mudfish.
4. Sterkfontein (2,616,000 megalitres)
Sterkfontein is located close to the Harrismith town in the Free State. It is a unique reservoir built along a stream instead of over a river and has another reservoir inside called Driekloof. Sterkfontein means a strong fountain in Afrikaans.
The reservoir was redirected from the Tugela River due to a water shortage in Johannesburg in the 1960s and 1970s. Its wall is 93 m high, and its capacity is 2.616 million m3. Sterkfontein stretches over a surface area of 69.37 km2, and it is 18.8 km long.
5. Vaal (2,613,500 megalitres)
It is among the top 5 biggest dams in South Africa. The Vaal dam is constructed along the Vaal River and 77 km south of the OP Tambo International Airport. The reservoir is fed by Vaal, Wilge, Klip, Grootspuit, Molspuit rivers, and Sterkfontein dam when water drops too low.
Lying on a 322 km2 and with a 2,613.5 million m3 capacity and a shoreline stretching over 800 km, the reservoir has enough water sports, fishing, and other recreational activities.
6. Pongolapoort / Lake Jozini (2,445,900 megalitres)
Phongolo River is Pongolapoort / Lake Jozini's sole perennial feeder. The reservoir is about 280 km northeast of Durban and was primarily built for irrigation in 1973. Environmentalists are concerned about the massive water pollution from pesticides because it endangers wildlife. It has a 13 272.8 ha surface area and covers a 7814 km2 water catchment area.
7. Bloemhof (1,269,000 megalitres)
The reservoir holds up to 1,269 million m3 of water, and its inlets are Vall and Vet rivers. It has a 33 m high wall and 4,270 m in length. The reservoir covers an area of 2226 ha, and its former name was Oppermansdrif.
8. Theewaterskloof (480,000 megalitres)
Theewaterskloof reservoir is built on the Sonderend River close to Villiersdorp in Western Cape. It is Cape Town's leading water supplier with a 480 million m3 capacity. The reservoir occupies a surface area of 5,059 ha. Besides the annual Synergy Live Music Festival, other activities include golfing, hiking, water sports, fishing, and biking.
9. Greater Brandvlei (459,000 megalitres)
Brandvlei and the Kwaggaskloof reservoirs were combined to form the Greater Brandvlei in 1989. It is built on a tributary of the Breede River and 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 million m3, and the reservoir stretches to 4110 ha when full. The area is widely used for fishing.
10. Dee Hoop (374,600 megalitres)
It is one of the largest reservoirs in Limpopo. The 374.6 million m3 reservoir is 81 m high and 1000 m long. It is a gravity dam constructed on Steelpoort River near Burgersfort, in the Sekhukhune area. It is the only reliable water solution for over 800,000 people living in the Nebo plateau.
11. Woodstock (373,260 megalitres)
The reservoir is about 50 km south of Harrismith in the upper reaches of the Tugela River in the KwaZulu-Natal province. It is 865 m long with a wall of 54 m in height and 373. 26 million m3 capacity.
12. Loskop (362,000 megalitres)
The Mpumalanga dam has a 361 million m3 capacity, meaning it holds 362 million m3 of water when full. The reservoir was constructed in 1939 along the Olifants River and near Groblersdal town.
The primary source of income for Groblersdal communities is farming; hence Loskop was mainly built for irrigation. The dam has crocodiles, and its 49 m height and 105 m length cover 12,285 km2 land.
13. Grootdraai (350,000 megalitres)
The 2180 m long reservoir lies along the Vaal River. It is 42 m high with a 350 million m3 volume. Grootdraai was constructed in 1981, and more comfortable, stylish, and affordable hotels are being established around the area to accommodate tourists. The reservoir was initially built to provide water to petrol plants like ESKOM'S Tutuka Power Station, Duyha Power Station, and the Malta Power Station.
14. Brandvlei (303,800 megalitres)
The reservoir was constructed in 1983 with a 303.8 million m3 water holding capacity. The inlet is the Holsloot River. When Brandvlei and the adjacent Kwaggaskloof Dams are full, the wall dividing them submerges to make a 458 million m3 capacity single reservoir. Camping, fishing, and yachting are popular activities here.
15. Goedertrouw (301,000 megalitres)
The earth-filled reservoir on the Mhlathuze River in KwaZulu-Natal province was constructed in 1980 and opened two years later. Goedertrouw is 88 m high and 660 m long with a 301 million m3 capacity. It is the leading water provider for the industrial complex at Richards Bay.
16. Albert Falls (290,100 megalitres)
The 290.1 million m3 capacity reservoir is on Umgeni River in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal Province. Albert Falls was constructed in 1976 with a 33 m high wall and 23.521 km2 surface area. The place has one of the best campsites in South Africa.
17. Spioenkop (272,265 megalitres)
It has a 15 km2 surface area and 272.265 million m3 volume. The dam is on the Tugela River in the KwaZulu-Natal province. It is the people's favourite water sports destination because the reservoir is 14 km from Winterton and 35 km from Ladysmith.
18. Kalkfontein (258, 274 megalitres)
The Riet River dam near Kalkfontein in the Free State was built in 1983 for irrigation and domestic use. The 23m high and 317 m long reservoir with a 258.274 million m3 volume lies on 3769 ha. It has helped the people to attain food security in the region. Kalkfontein's capacity is 258.274 million m3.
19. Mthatha (253,674 megalitres)
It was constructed on the Mthatha River in 1977 for commercial and domestic use. The reservoir is in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, and its capacity is 253.674 million m3. Its surface area is 2,541.7 ha, and it covers an 886 km2 water catchment area.
20. Kruismansrivier (1,500 megalitres)
The Kruismansrivier reservoir is constructed along the Kruis River in Western Cape and opened in 1992. Its wall's height is 18 m, and it extends across a surface area of 18 ha, and the reservoir holds up to 1.5 million m3.
Visit the biggest dams in South Africa anytime you are in the country. Enjoy Mzansi's beauty when you can because you only live once. As for the locals, please keep preserving the reservoirs and water for future generations.
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