The average annual precipitation in the country is 450mm. The total mean annual precipitation volume is about 600km3, of which only 49.2km3 is runoff (it is only practicable to exploit 20km3/yr). Surface runoff is the main source of water. The groundwater resource is very limited due to the hard rock geology, but is an important source of water for rural communities and small towns. Because of the average annual precipitation, South Africa is regarded as a dry country with relatively small conventional hydro power potential.

The total water consumption (2000) of 13.3km3/yr is used as follows: domestic consumption (29%), irrigated agriculture (59%), industry, mining and thermal power generation (8%) and commercial afforestation, which decreases runoff (4%). Per capita water resource availability is about 1100m3 per annum hence the classification of South Africa in terms of international norms as ‘water stressed’.

The National Government Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) is responsible for administering all aspects of the legislation relating to water resources, as a result of the National Water Act, 1998. DWAF is responsible for the development and implementation of policies, strategies and regulatory instruments relating to the act.

The National Water Act contains many innovative approaches such as an ecological reserve to maintain the ecological health of rivers as well as meeting basic human needs. This reserve has been estimated to be about 20% of the mean annual runoff and is not available for allocation to other users. In mid-2004 DWAF is due to release the first version of the National Water Resource Strategy in terms of the National Water Act. This strategy has been subjected to an extensive public participation process. The draft version is available on the DWAF website DWAF is also responsible for planning, developing, operating and maintaining State-owned water resources management infrastructure, and for overseeing the activities of all water management institutions. DWAF is also responsible for the administration of dam safety of all water storage dams over 5m in height (including state owned dams). Tailings dam safety is administered by the Department of Minerals and Energy in conjunction with DWAF.

This role will however progressively change, as 19 new regional water management institutions (catchment management agencies) are established, and the responsibility and authority for water resources management are delegated to them. Water user associations (former Irrigation Boards) are also being formed, primarily for the provision and management of water infrastructure for irrigation. The creation of a national water utility is being considered to manage national infrastructure, and to develop new infrastructure as required.

DWAF’s eventual role will mainly be to provide the national policy and regulatory framework within which other institutions will directly manage water resources and to oversee the institutions’ activities and performance. DWAF will continue to manage South Africa’s international relationships and activities in water matters, although this may also be done through institutions established with neighbouring countries. The NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development) initiative has its secretariat in South Africa. Water resources development for both water supply and energy production features strongly in this initiative.

There are 1108 large dams in operation, comprising 907 embankments and 201 concrete structures. The total water storage of all dams is about about 33.9km3.

The following dams were commissioned during 2003: Appelsdrift (15m, earthfill); Damn (20m, earthfill); Moeilikheid (15m, earthfill); Altenzur (27m, earthfill); Wilgerivier (15m, earthfill); Breek (19m, earthfill); Umngazi off channel (18m, earthfill); PPL 1160 (37m, rockfill); Okhulu (24m, earthfill). Other dams commissioned this year are as follows: Nandoni (45m high, earthfill/gravity); Canetsfontein (21m, earthfill); Capes Thorne (14m, arch/earthfill); Lindequespruit (25m, earthfill); Avalon (15m, earthfill); Jakkalsfontein (25m high, earthfill); and Van Rysen (22m, rock- and earthfill).

Refurbishment projects completed in 2004 are as follows: Hartbeespoort (62m, concrete arch), Roodeplaat (55m, concrete arch), Nagle (46m, gravity/earthfill), Molatedi (32m, gravity/earthfill); and Damani (36m, earthfill).

The construction contract for the Berg river dam (72m high, concrete faced rockfill) has just been awarded and the dam is scheduled for completion in 2008. The heightening of the Flag Boshielo dam (36m high, RCC) was due for completion in 2005.

Energy and power sectors

South Africa’s sources of national electricity production are: fossil fuels (about 88%), nuclear (5%), and hydro (about 7%), including imported electricity from Cahora Bassa dam in Mozambique.

Eskom, the South African national power utility and Africa’s largest electricity company, is a South African registered company, with the national government as its sole shareholder. Eskom’s installed generating capacity amounts to 42,011MW, and it supplies approximately 95% of the country’s electricity requirements. The other 5% is generated by municipal power stations and plants owned and operated by large industries.

The Department of Minerals and Energy is the government department accountable for energy matters. The electricity market is fully regulated with the National Electricity Regulator (NER) responsible for this function.

Hydro power development

The gross theoretical hydro capacity of South Africa is 27,000MW, the technically feasible capacity is 12,160MW (including 7000MW of pumped storage) and the economically feasible capacity is 6060MW (including 4330MW of pumped storage).

Eskom owns four hydro plants that are larger than 10MW with a total installed hydro capacity of 661MW. Two hydro plants are part of multipurpose developments.

Conventional hydro plants contribute 1% of the national electricity production in an average year (2% including pumped storage plants).

Eskom furthermore owns 1400MW of pumped storage capacity (in the turbine mode) at two major plants, and the municipality of Cape Town owns a further 180MW. During 2003, the Eskom pumped storage plants generated 2732GWh and consumed 3664GWh. Other plants contributed an estimated 30MW to the national grid.

The hydro plants generated 777GWh in 2003. The average annual generation by the hydro plants in operation is 2100GWh.

Eskom has further schemes in development, including a 1330MW pumped storage project, situated near Van Reenen on the border between the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal provinces, which is planned for development over the next eight years. The final design for this project started in May 2004.

A feasibility study has also been completed for a 1000MW pumped storage project near Roossenekal in the Mpumalanga province. The final design for this scheme will commence in 2006, with pre-feasibility studies for other pumped storage schemes due to commence in 2005.

Small hydro

Eskom has identified a total of nine potential small conventional hydro power sites in the eastern part of South Africa. These have feasible capacities ranging from 12MW to 130MW and energy potential of 450GWh/year. However, further studies need to be conducted to confirm these capacities.

There is 34MW of small hydro capacity in operation (200GWh/year). There are no small hydro plants under construction at present.

Environment & Public awareness

DWAF reports to ensure integrated environmental management in their development projects:

• Development of standardised guidelines for Environmental Management Plan (EMP) for Water Resources Management.

• Development of standardised guidelines for Environmental Site Management and Rehabilitation Specifications (ESM&RS) for construction sites.

• Environmental Site Management and Rehabilitation Awareness Course for construction personnel.

• Environmental Management Framework (EMF) for Water Resource Management.

• Environmental Impact Management System (EIMS) for Community Water Services and Sanitation (Masibambane Sector Support Programme).

The Environment Conservation Act (number 73) of 1989 administered by the Department of Environment Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) covers the identification and prevention of activities that are likely to have a detrimental effect on the environment. It also covers the EIA process necessary to obtain authorisation for carrying out identified activity.

The National Environmental Act (number 107) of 1998 (DEAT) promotes the application of appropriate environmental management tools (such as the EIA) to ensure integrated environmental management. It also covers the identification of activities which may not go ahead without prior authorisation.

Some guidelines for environmental impact studies for water resources developments projects are also included in the National Water Act (number 36) of 1998 and the National Heritage Resources Act (number 25) of 1999.

Media, broadcasting on local radio stations, local newspapers, posters, information sessions, and public participation meetings (that is, public participation in accordance with legal requirements) are some of the methods used to communicate with local people when a new development is planned.

The local community structures are often used to convey information and to report back to the project via the community leaders. Job creation is encouraged locally during the lifecycle of a project. Awareness programmes are also being developed, as well as capacity building and communication programmes.

Future outlook

As part of its energy policy, the government has committed itself to promoting renewable energy, mainly from biomass, wind, solar and small hydro installations. Targets for the future electricity generation mix will be established as the policy development process proceeds.

Limited prospects for hydropower exist, except for pumped-storage, because of the limited water resources.

Development in the near future will focus on development for basic human needs.

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