South Africa's Water History: 20 th Century

15 th Century 16 th Century 17 th Century 18 th Century 19 th Century 20 th Century 21 st Century 22 nd Century

1900-1910 1910-1920 1920-1930 1930-1940 1940-1950 1950-1960 1960-1970 1970-1980 1980-1990 1990-1999


1901 Johannesburg Water Supply: In September, the Town Council (which was appointed in May of that year), suggested that a public body representative of the mining interests and the various municipal bodies along the Rand, should be established to obtain water in bulk, which would be supplied wholesale to the mines and public bodies, who would in turn supply water to individual customers. (Ref 11).       
1902 Johannesburg Water Supply: The Rand Water Board was established with an area of supply covering 4548 square kilometres – about one quarter of the area supplied by the board today. (Ref 11).       
1902 Most severe snowstorm in memory of South Africa. Sow 1.5 m deep in East Griqualand where 13 000 sheep froze to death on 12 June 1902. (Ref.10).      


Johannesburg Sewerage: A survey of the insanitary area carried out in August 1902 gave the area as 172 acres (69,9ha). The area which included the Brickfields (later Burghersdorp) and a small part of Fordsburg had a population of 5 651. (Ref 11).       


The first recorded use of chlorine on a permanent basis for the disinfection of water was in Middlekerk, Belgium, in 1902. This fundamental process is still used today, (WRC - History of Water Treatment)


Pretoria water supply: The  Fountains Valley  water scheme was supplemented in 1902 with a 36 inch (900 mm) diameter concrete aquaduct laid by the British Army shortly after the Anglo Boer War and the 3 million gallon (13.6 Ml) Findley Reservoir built on the southern side of the railway station. This system ensured that the suburbs of Arcadia, Muckleneuk, Sunnyside, Roberts Heights (the current Voortrekkerhoogte), Innesdale and other proposed residential areas could be supplied with water. (Ref.7)      


Johannesburg Water Supply: The first chairman of the Rand Water Board was Lieutenant Colonel Fowke. (Ref 11). 


Since 1903, Rand Water has been a bulk water supplier to the Gauteng area. In recent years, we have responded to social and political change by choosing to operate beyond our traditional role as a bulk supplier.


Johannesburg Sewerage: In 1903 under a new town engineer, DC Leitch, formal control of sewering Johannesburg reverted to the Town Council. (Ref 11).       


Johannesburg Sewerage: In January 1903 complaints were received of rats dying in large numbers in the Market buildings and at Henwood’s Arcade. (Ref 11).      


Johannesburg Sewerage: In March 1904 an outbreak of bubonic plague erupted in the insanitary area. (Ref 11).       


Johannesburg Sewerage: The Council wanted to use the Southern portion of the farm Klipspruit for the purpose of sewage disposal, but by 1904 it could not gain occupation because of its objections from adjacent land owners. The Government decided to appoint a commission of enquiry into the matter. (Ref 11).       


The oldest evidence of a sewerage system in Pretoria is shown on a plan drawn up in 1903 by the Sanitary Engineer E.S.Prentice A.M.I.C.E. of the Central South African Railways (CSAR) Administration. It shows a system serving the Railway Depot, Hospital, Goal, Military Barracks and proposed Railway Town, all situated near the present Pretoria Station. (Ref.5)      
1904 Construction of the Hely Hutchinson Dam in the Disa River on Table Mountain. (Ref.1.)
1904 Johannesburg Water Supply: The chairman of the Rand Water Board was W. St John Carr, who resigned as Mayor of Johannesburg, to accept this post. (Ref 11).       
1904 In the year 1904, when the population of Pretoria was 36 700, the Town Engineer H.D.Badcock submitted the first plans for a sewer reticulation system for Pretoria and a purification works at an estimated R 740 000. His proposal were not fully accepted and only four purification units were constructed between 1913 and 1920 to the design of Town Engineer F.Walton Jameson. (Ref.5)      
1904 Johannesburg Water Supply: The Braamfontein Estate Company became the Transvaal Consolidated Land and Exploration Company Ltd, which was responsible among other things for the establishment of the townships of Parkview, Parkwood and Saxonwold. (Ref 11).       
1904 Cape Town water supply: The Final Report on Investigations by the Joint Water Committee of Cape Town, dated 15 December 1904, proposed the Schaufraam Dam as part of the French Hoek Water Scheme in the Berg River Hoek Watershed. The cost estimate for the dam was 930,000.00 sterling pounds. Go to  Cape Town Water Supply History for more information.

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1905 Johannesburg Water Supply: In April, the board took over the assets of the various water undertakings. (Ref 11).       
1906 Cape Town water supply: The Water Supply Report, submitted to the  the Suburban Joint Water and Drainage Committee of Cape Town by Mr Thomas Stewart, dated 23 January 1906, indicated the Key Plan for water supply to the southern suburbs. This plan included the Wemmershoek Dam (construction completed in 1957), the Steenbras Dam Water Scheme (inaugarated in 1921) and the Berg River Hoek/Warm Berg water scheme (the Schaufraam Dam), which is at present under construction as part of the Berg Water Project. Go to  Cape Town Water Supply History for more information. report2.jpg (98296 bytes) report21.jpg (43676 bytes)  
1906 The "Pretoria Sewage Disposal Commission" was appointed on the 26 th day of October 1906 under the Governmental Notice No.1105 of 1906. (Ref.5)      
1906 The Pretoria Council now propose to sewer the town, to conduct the sewage by gravitation through Daspoort, to treat it in septic tanks and filters on the site proposed to be exproprated, and to discharge the effluent from the filters into the Aapies River or to supply it to irrigation. The details of the scheme are set out in the Town Engineer's Report, dated 1 st November 1904, and the Supplementary Note to that Report, dated 12 th November 1906. (Ref.5)      
1907 It is interesting to note that purification works (for sewage in Pretoria) were built during and just after the Anglo-Boer war at various military camps, including Voortrekkerhoogte, then known as Roberts Heights. Two biological fiters constructed there in 1907 are still functioning satisfactorily. (Ref.5)      
1908 Construction of the Maquassie Dam in the Maquassie River near Wolmaranstad. (Ref.1.)


Johannesburg Sewerage: By 1908 the volume of sewage being spread over the land at Klipspruit was 45 00 000 litres per day. In the same period, due to depression in the labour market, the Sewage Committee decided that certain sections of the sewerage and storm water undertakings would be carried out departmentally using unskilled labour (Ref 11).       


The Bongola Dam (Bonkolo) about 5 km from town on the Dordrecht road, is one of  Queenstown’s main sources of water.  The wall was begun in 1905 and was for years the largest concrete dam wall in South Africa.

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1908 Johannesburg Sewerage: In order to eliminate the pumping station at Natal Spruit, which handled flow from the south eastern drainage basin, a subsidiary eastern drainage basin, a subsidiary outfall sewer was built from there to Ophirton in the south western basin      
1908 Johannesburg Sewerage: A Court injunction was granted against the Council prohibiting the depositing of slop water on the site after 1 August 1908. (Ref. 11).       
1908 Johannesburg Sewerage: After 1908 property owners were enforced in terms of the Drainage and Plumbing By-laws to connect the sewer system      
1908 Port Elizabeth water supply:  The earliest Water Workshop was part of the Municipal Depot (or stables) in the Baakens Valley. After the flood of 1908 the depot was relocated to North End and became known as the Harrower Road Depot. The Water Workshops were on the west side of the depot in Connaught Avenue. In 1991 and 1993 the Water Distribution and Water Installation Workshops, respectively, moved to the newly established Burchell Depot at Hunters Retreat. The new premises were designed around the needs of the workshops and have proved to be a major improvement. The workshop in Cuyler Street, Uitenhage have been retained. (Ref.8)      
  1910-1919 Back to top


My grandfather, Harry Herbert Roe, was Superintendent of waterworks in Pretoria .  He joined the Pretoria Council around 1910, and worked under George Storrar, who was Town (City?) engineer.  He then moved to Durban council for a while, and returned to Pretoria , where he became Superintendent under City Engineer Louis de Waal.  Louis was married to Genl Louis Botha's daughter, and i remember her visiting us, complete with gloves and hat. As I recall, during my grandfather's time, Pretoria 's water was brought from Fountains Valley , and he had a great deal to do with the pumping stations at Fountains - whether their initial construction, or perhaps expansion of capacity, I don't know. I also seem to remember he was involved in the initial stages of the Daspoort treatment plant. I think I was destined to be involved in water, as my late father in law - Bill Murray, was with DWAF for his whole working career.  he was a civil engineer, and involved in many major dam and irrigation projects in the country, including the raising of Hartebeestpoort Dam wall, Loskop, Breede Rivier and Hendrik Verwoerd Dam. (Ref.10)  


The oldest main sewer in Pretoria is probably the egg shaped sewer of 21 inches x 15 inches (533 mm x 381 mm) which was constructed alongside the Steenovenspruit before 1910. (Ref.5.)      


Johannesburg Sewerage: Legal proceedings were instituted against the Council by adjacent land owners, the basis of the complaint being “alleged nuisance” at the Klipspruit Sewage Farm. 


Johannesburg Sewerage: Although sewage was first received at the Klipspruit works in 1907, it was not until 1910 that the first proper treatment plant was constructed and put into service. (Ref 11). 


Construction of the De Villiers Dam in the Disa River on Table Mountain. (Ref.1.)


A diversion and storage dam had been constructed in Fairy Glen, followed by the completion of a filtration and chlorination plant in 1936.  (Ref 17)

  1911 Construction of the Loxton Dam in the Soutpoort River near Loxton. (Ref.1.)
1911 Johannesburg sewerageIn 1911 a sewer untake for night soil was constructed at Bez-Valley. From here the sewage was pumped to the Main sewer at lower Ross Street and then it flowed by gravity via subsidiary outfall and main outfall to Klipspruit. The length of sewers including outfalls in the town at this stage was 120 km.  (Ref.11.)      
1913 Four purification (sewage) units for Pretoria were constructed between 1913 and 1920 to the design of Town Engineer F.Walton Jameson. (Ref.5)      
1913 Johannesburg Sewerage: When the Government passed the Native Land Act of 1913 it had the effect of driving thousands of black [South Africans] from the rural areas to the big towns. As a result of this influx, the Government urged the Council to provide more municipal locations. (Ref 9).       
1913 Land Act removes the right to own land from black South Africans. Since access to water was tied to land this in essence removed the right of access to water for productive purposes from black South Africans.
1913 The first large-scale irrigation work in the Sundays River Valley (and indeed in South Africa) as the Korhaans Drift weir completed at the end of 1913.  (Ref 14)      
1913 For more than 30 000 years, the Khoi people had relied on water flowing off Table Mountain, in a place they knew as Camissa - "place of sweet waters'.  Cape Town's water as a municipal utility began with Jan van Riebeeck establishing a Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC) station in Table Bay in 1652.  Table Bay was chosen over the more sheltered anchorage Saldanha Bay because of Camissa. (Ref 25)      
1914 Construction of the Vaal Barrage in the Vaal River near Vanderbijlpark. (Ref.1.)

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With the outbreak of World War 1 in 1914, the (Union of) South Africa's Government drilled a series of boreholes along the Auob to provide their troops with water in case South Africa wanted to use corridor to invade South West Africa. Guards were recruited mainly from the local community and hired to protect and maintain the boreholes. They were permitted to settle next to the holes with their families and livestock. This corridor was never used to invade South West Africa and the borehole. (Ref


1917 The Sundays River Irrigation Board was established with the sole purpose of constructing what was soon named Lake Mentz (Darlington Dam)after the Minister of Lands, Col H Mentz.A loan was provided by the State to construct the dam and the repayment of the loan was the responsibility of the irrigators by the imposition of a canal levy by the irrigation board. The Sundays River Project as it was then known, was considered unique by virtue of the fact that almost the entire area of irrigable land was controlled by companies and not by private individuals, and that the existing irrigation works, weirs, canals etc. had been constructed by the companies themselves.  Lake Mentz would be the second largest dam after the Hartbeespoort, which was also being constructed at the time. (Ref 23)


1918 Johannesburg Sewerage: The Council resolved to concentrate on a new housing area on the old sewage tipping site known as the Newlands Location. (Ref 9)      
  1920-1929 Back to top


A chemist (M.Lundie) for the Pretoria wastewater purification works (the first Chemist for a wastewater purification works in South Africa) was appointed by the Town Engineer F.Walton Jameson of Pretoria. (Ref.5)      


Construction of the Lake Mentz later renamed as the Darlington Dam. Sundays River. Eastern Cape.

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Work began on the Athlone treatment plant and 240 km of sewer reticulation and was completed 2 years later.  The Athlone works incorporated state-of-the-art technology for the first time - "Imhoff' settling tanks and brushwood filter beds.  The works have since been repeatedly enlarged, roughly every decade and after the most recent upgrade completed last year, now handles 105Ml a day on average.  The treated effluent released is so clean that waterbirds, which have not been seen for decades on the Black River, have returned. (Ref 25)


The "Africa District" of the Institution of Municipal and County Engineers was formed on 6 June 1921 in Johannesburg. (Ref.2.)

9 March 1921

Inauguration of the Steenbras Water Scheme. Steenbras River. Western Cape. (Prince Arthur of Connaught). Engineers in charge were Mr.D.E.Lloyd-Davies and Mr.C.R.Barlow.

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1922 Nqweba dam (prevously known as the Van Rynevelds pass dam) outside Graaff-Reinet was one of the  first large dams to be constructed in South Africa.   A start was made on the foundations of the dam in July 1921. Excavation work was carried out in four sections: left flank, base excavation, river section and right flank. About 27 432 m of soil were taken out by means of donkeys and scrapers.  The dam now forms part of the Camdeboo National Park, and these days it is more noted as a tourist attraction than a main water supply (Ref.7)      
1923 Pretoria water supply:  Roberts Heights (the current Voortrekkerhoogte), which is situated in an area higher than the Fountains Valley, was supplied with water through a 12 inch (300 mm) pipeline driven by steam engines. The steam engines (the first municipal pump station in Pretoria) were replaced with electric motors and the newly erected Muckleneuk pump station situated on the eastern side of the Fountains Road was also equipped with electric motors in 1923. (Ref.7)      
1923 Pretoria water supply:  The daily water consumption was 4.47 million gallons (21.48 Ml) which was virtually the supply capacity of the Fountains in 1923. (Ref.7)      
1924 Johannesburg Water Supply: The Town Engineer, Mr GS Burt Andrews, mentioned that the greatest quantity of water taken in one day was over 6,3 million gallons on the 18th January. (Ref 9).       
1925 Johannesburg Water Supply: In June, Mr GS Burt Andrews, the Town Engineer, gave a radio talk on the water supply and its distribution in Johannesburg in which he described the extent of the distribution system. (Ref 9).       
1925 Hartbeespoort Dam:  The first foundation concrete was placed on 29 July, and by September 1922 the wall was two metres above the riverbed. By April 1923 the wall was completed, and only the finishing of the parapets and crest road remained. During the construction phase the dam impounded the floods of 1922/23. The whole scheme, including the canals, was completed in 1925. 

The dam was filled on 11 March 1925, and a maximum flood of 2 700 cusecs passed down the spillway on 26 March of that year. After completion, 97 farmers and 65 lessees made use of the water from the Hartbeespoort Dam. (Ref 15)

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  1926 Construction of the Loch Athlone Dam in the Jordaan River near Bethlehem. (Ref.1.)
1927 Pretoria water supply:  As a result of the limited  capacity of the Fountains of 5.06 million gallons per day (23 Ml/day) and the increasing demand for water, Messrs George A Storrar and F Walton Jameson were requested in November 1927 to evaluate various projects and continue with the planning of a supplemental water scheme. (Ref.7)      
1928 March 1928 saw Lake Mentz overflowing for the first time. (Ref 14)

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1928 Johannesburg sewerage:  On 5 September 1928 Johannesburg was elevated to the status of a city. All the residential suburbs on the northern side of the watershed were still served by the primitive night soil pale collection system while bath water was either disposed of via French drains or conservancy tanks which were emptied on a regular basis.  (Ref.11.)      
1929 Johannesburg sewerageThe first of the northern basins to be tackled was the eastern basin which drained to the proposed Bruma Works in Kensington. In 1929 Dr.E.J.Hamlin had initiated construction by contract just prior to becoming City Engineer. The surrounding residents were not very happy about a sewage purification works so near to them and at one famous public meeting Dr.Hamlin drank a glass of purified effluent to demonstrate his complete faith in the stone trickling filter system.   (Ref.11.)      
1929 Pretoria water supply:  In 1929 the Council instructed the Consulting Engineers to commence with an in-depth study of the Rietvlei-Grootfontein scheme and the drawing up of a report to be submitted to Parliament for the approval of the dam construction with purification works and the collection of water from the Rietvlei Fountains and Grootfontein. The proposal was not supported by the Department of Agriculture. (Ref.7)      
1929 Pretoria water supply:  The run off of the Hennops River was measured from 1904 to 1927 at a measuring station at Zwartkop near Wierda Bridge and the proposed construction of Rietvlei Dam would have neglible influence on the Hartebeespoort Dam inflow. As a result hereof, Parliament approved the scheme in 1929. (Ref.7)      
1929 Pretoria water supply:  During 1929 the Council decided to purchase the water rights of the Rietvlei dolomitic fountains and Grootfontein as well as the property on which the proposed Rietvlei Dam would be constructed. The farm was approximately 3 500 morgen (3 000 hectare) in extent. (Ref.7)      
1929 Johannesburg sewerage reticulation and treatment: Prior to the 1930’s, the Klipspruit Sewage Farm was the only facility Johannesburg possessed for handling its wastewater.  Klipspruit served the whole area, much of the areas draining to the north being served by recourse to the pail system. Dr E J Hamlin, the then City Engineer, gave priority to sanitation and sewage treatment plants were established in four of the north flowing stream valleys.  The new works were named in alphabetical order according to Harold Wilson; Antea-the first; Bruma-a wet place in the Bible; Cydna- after the river Cydnus (on which the ancient city of Tarsus was sited and which flowed into the Mediterranean Sea at a point about 75 miles north of the northernmost tip of Cyprus); and Delta the fourth works after the 4th letter of the Greek alphabet. (Ref.6)      
1929 The storage potential of the Riviersonderend was realized as far ago as the 1800s, but it was the Irrigation Department who started the first serious investigations into the possibility of a scheme here in 1929. This mountainous region has one of the highest rainfalls in South Africa (as much as 5 000 mm/year). A provisional dam design had actually been completed by 1952, and by 1964 the focus has zoomed in on the Theewaterskloof as the best storage site available. When the Greater Cape Town again started experiencing water shortages following the construction of the Wemmershoek Dam, it was de-cided to go ahead with the Riviersonderend-Berg River scheme. The scheme would not only supplement water supply to Cape Town, but would also be used to provide irrigation water during the dry months to farmers in the Boland. The project was described as „one of the most impressive civil engineering projects of the 1980's

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  1930-1939 Back to top
1930 Johannesburg sewerageThe North Eastern Basin drained northwards to the Cydna Works in Melrose, built departmentally in 1930/31.  (Ref.11.)      
1932 Construction of the Vaal Dam

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1933 The wastewater flow for Pretoria averaged 9 megaliters per day (Ref.5)
1934 Pretoria water supply:  Mr Chas E. Stewart, Chartered Engineer was commissioned to plan and design the Rietvlei Dam. The construction of the dam and purification works commenced in 1930 under the supervision of Mr B.G.Twycross who was appointed as the Resident Engineer. This work was carried out thoroughly and conscientiously and the project was completed 4 years later in 1934. Most of the dam wall pitching, stone walling and the dam spillway was constructed by hand due to the shortage of construction machinery. Material for the earth fill wall was conveyed by ox wagons and donkey carts. Excavations and building work for the purification works were also carried out by hand. (Ref.7)      
1934 Johannesburg sewerageThe North Western Basin drained northwards to the Delta Works opposite Craighall Park. Delta wa built in 1934/35 using the activated sludge process.  (Ref.11.)      
1935 The Boegoeberg Dam in the Orange River (near Upington) was constructed during the economic depression of the 1930's as a measure to relieve unemployment. 
1935 The Clanwilliam Dam (Olifants River) wall was completed in 1935, approximately 38 m high.
1936 Devastating hailstorm with hailstones the size of coconuts reported at Settlers on 1 February 1936. Ten people killed by hailstones. Several head of cattle also killed. Nine people killed by raging water. 380 mm of rain fell in 15 minutes. (Ref.10).      
1937 History of WISA: The first creative steps were taken at a meeting held at the Cydna Biochemical laboratory in Johannesburg on May 4. 1937, when the following resolutions were passed:

That it is unanimously agreed that an Association shall be, and is hereby formed, the objects of that Association being set forth in pages 13 to 15 of the Articles of Association of the (British) Institute of Sewage Purification.

That this Association shall forthwith take steps to become recognised as the South African Branch of the Institute of Sewage Purification.

That a temporary committee be elected to deal with local by‑laws and necessary correspondence, the committee to consist of: Messrs H Clausen, JA McLachlan, BR Spencer and H Wilson.

Those present at the inaugural meeting were Messrs Alison, H Clausen, JA McLachlan. KA Murray, J Pollock, J Richardson, P O'Reilly, J Sampson, BR Spencer. H de Vaal, P Vosloo, and H Wilson. Membership of the Branch increased at a satisfactory rate and additional Group committees were formed in Durban, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.  (Ref.6)

1938 Johannesburg sewerage: The first use of sewage effluent for power station cooling in the Republic of South Africa was in 1938/1939. at the City's Orlando Power Station, when effluent from Klipspruit Sewage Works was used.   (Ref.11.)      
1939 SOUTHERN CROSS INDUSTRIES (PTY) LTD commenced business as the "SOUTHERN CROSS WINDMILL AND ENGINE CO" during 1939 in then the Union of South Africa. At that time it was effectively controlled by the SOUTHERN CROSS ORGANISATION with headquarters abd factory in Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia.

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The pier at the foot of Adderley Street was demolished in 1939.  While almost all other engineering work was postponed for the duration of hostilities, harbour work was of strategic importance, and the reclamation continued throughout the war years.  A Dutch contractor, H.A.M., was engaged to complete the job by dredging the new harbour area and depositing the fill on the landward side of the new quays.  Work proceeded round the clock in order to complete the facilities for accommodating wartime traffic, and the expected boom in international trade in peacetime - and the City Engineer was not part of the process! Suddenly somebody realised the several stormwater outlets that discharged into the bay along the old shoreline had been completely forgotten!  The basements of buildings in Adderley Street were already subject to winter flooding, and now the big Dutch dredgers were adding to the problem.  A further complication was that the cooling water ducts to the new Table Bay Power station were being rendered ineffective, and the vastly experienced engineer on that job, former SAICE President D.P. Howells, was scathing in his criticism and refused to cooperate.  The Dutch smiled smugly and reached for the claim forms.  The Harbour Advisory Engineer, Jack Craig, was red-faced with embarrassment, but not as red in the face as Stanley Lunn, the City Engineer.  Something needed to be done in a hurry! The solution was to depart from the time-honoured City Council process of in-house design and to hand the work to a young consulting engineer who had been making quite a name for himself in the country districts.  The call went out to Ninham Shand. (Ref.3.)

1939 Uitenhage water supply: Over time improvements were made at the Springs. Stone wall enclosures were constructed which prevented storm debris entering the pipeline. Gauging and pipes were upgraded. The yield was closely monitored and when boreholes at nearby Sandfontein and Balmoral were installed this declined. Disinfection of the water by chlorine gas was introduced in 1939. (Ref.8)      
  1940-1949 Back to top
1945 Worcester started planning to build a proper water impounding scheme. Construction of the Stettynskloof Dam started in 1952. (Ref 17)

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1947 Construction of the Nantes Dam on Paarlberg near Paarl. (Ref.1.)


The Association of Municipal and Sanitary Engineers was , following the grant of Royal Charter,  was changed to the Institution of Municipal Engineers. (Ref.2.)

1948 Construction of the Mockes Dam in the Modder River near Bloemfontein. (Ref.1.)
1948 Worst tornado in known South African history on 26 November 1948 at Roodepoort. 700 homes wrecked, 4 people killed. Damage estimated at R 150 million. Track of 64 km touching down 15 times. (Ref.10).       
1949 Devastating hailstorm in Pretoria on 17 November 1949. Hailstones with a circumference of 23 cm (7 cm diameter). Not a single building without broken windows or broken roofs in Pretoria West. At Iscor 12 000 large windows broken and hundreds of motor cars badly damaged. (Ref.10).      
  1950-1959 Back to top


The Berg River was the first river in South Africa on which a detailed limnological and chemical study was conducted. A.D. Harrison and J.F. Elsworth undertook the study and sampling spanned a period of 3 years, beginning in May 1950. Although initially intending to determine the biological effects and indicators of pollution, the objectives of the study shifted to assessing the biota and conditions of life in an unpolluted South African river. The data obtained from the study provides a firm basis for the historical faunal communities and zonation patterns occurring along the river course. This study was not only the first of its kind in South Africa, but aided in the development of methods and provided fundamental concepts for South African river biology. (Ref 21)

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The construction of sewerage reticulation schemes for Pretoria lagged behind the development of the town. This resulted in the necessity of running an intensive "bucket" service, with horse-drawn wagons rattling through the quiet of the night while the barking of dogs indicated where they were changing buckets. This service could only finally be terminated in the 1950's when in the unsewered areas, it was replaced with a vacuum tank service. (Ref.5)


Construction of the Nagle Dam in the Mgeni River near Pietermaritzburg. (Ref.1.)


The Albasini Dam was built in 1952. This dam was built primarily to supply the Levubu Irrigation Scheme. In the Luvuvhu River (Limpopo).

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About 6 km south of Gouda is Voelvlei Dam, an important element in the complex water supply system of the Western Cape.  What was originally a little more than a muddy marsh was converted into a dam in 1952 to augment and control the water delivered by the Berg River to places such as Saldanha and Vredenburg near its mouth on the west coast.  (Ref 13)

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Johannesburg Water Supply: Mr JI Jammy became Chief Water Engineer in 1953. (Ref 11).       


Construction of the Beervlei Dam in the Groot Rivier near Willowmore. 

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Construction of the Rustfontein Dam in the Modder River near Dewetsdorp. (Ref.1.)

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Construction of the Stettynskloof Dam started in 1952. The work was undertaken by Beton und Monierbau Aktiengesellschaft of Düsseldorf, Germany. Dr. Heinz Schulze was the head engineer and work was completed in 1955.  (Ref.17)

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Johannesburg sewerageConstruction of the Northern Works began in 1956 and the first 45.4 Ml/day plant was completed in 1959.  (Ref.11)      

February 1956

In February 1956 Tzaneen Dam recorded 987 mm.


1956, anthropologist  AC Myburgh discovered a pre-colonial irrigation site on a farm near Carolina, in Mpumalanga (Tempelhoff, 2008).  There were a number of canals on a fairly level tract of land and a dam of sorts had been built to take water from the Gemsbokspruit.  Consequently, a floodplain was formed and water could siphon through the lands.  Myburgh noted that the canals were obviously made for the purposes of irrigation because there were no direct indications of a settlement in the vicinity of what must have been a patch of agricultural land. (Ref 23)



Promulgation of the Water Act (no.54 of 1956)


The Wemmershoek Dam near Franchhoek was completed in 1957, and is in the Wemmershoek River.

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 In 1957 the Uitenhage Subterranean Water Control Area was established to regulate and control abstraction. (Ref.8)      

January 1958

In January 1958 the tropical cyclone Astrid was responsible for washing away Wyllie's Poort pass just north of Louis Trichardt. Subsequently a tunnel was built through the Soutpansberg mountains. In January 899 mm fell at Duiwelskloof. (


Construction of the Allemanskraal Dam (Sand River/Vet River/Vaal River) 

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Flooding of the Sand, Letaba and Selati Rivers in North Eastern Transvaal on 7 January 1958 with large scale devastation of homes, bridges and crops. Half the black population of Messina's homes washed away. (Ref.10). (tropical cyclone Astrid)


Construction of the Erfenis Dam in the Groot Vet River near Theunissen. (Ref.1.)

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Construction of the Ebenezer Dam in the Groot Letaba near Tzaneen. (Ref.1.)

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1959 The completion of the wall of the Kariba Dam on the Zambezi, a double curvature concrete arch dam, one of the largest dams in the world.
1959 Pretoria sewerage reticulation: The construction of the first Daspoort/Rooiwal outfall sewer, with a diameter of 1060 mm, commenced in 1954. Completion of the pipeline coincided with the completion of the first Rooiwal plant (biofilters) with a capacity of 13.5 Ml/day in 1959 (Ref.5)
  1960-1969 Back to top
1960 In 1960 the height of the Vaal Dam was raised to 60 m.

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1960 Construction of the Midmar Dam on the Mgeni River - KwaZulu-Natal.

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1960 The SA branch of the Institute of Sewage and Purification (ISP) started to run a Sewage Works Operators Course. Mr.N.Nicolle, City Chemist of Pretoria was the Honorary Secretary of the Operators Course.
1960 Johannesburg sewerageThe 30.6 km long Diepsloot Kelvin pumping scheme for the provision of cooling water to the Kelvin Power Station using sewage effluent from the Northern Works, was built during 1960 to 1962.  (Ref.11.)      
1961 Construction of the Arlington Dam in the Hammanspruit near Arlington. (Ref.1.)
1961 Johannesburg sewerageMr.B.L.Loffell. City Engineer of Johannesburg - 1961 to 1975. The sewerage system, extended to cope into the future, showed Brian Loffell's concern for aesthetic considerations.  (Ref.11.)
1961 The Spioenkop Dam (in the Tugela River) was constructed to regulate flow downstream of the Driel Barrage and also supplies water to Ladysmith and supports water requirements for the farmers between the dam and the confluence of the Little Thukela River.

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1961 Construction of the Craigie Burn Dam, Myamvubu River/Mooi River/Buffels River/Tugela River

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1961 Ntshingwayo Dam (previously known as Chelmsford Dam) was completed in 1961. (near Newcastle) Chelms324.jpg (45888 bytes)
1962 In 1962 an autonomous Institution of Municipal Engineers of Southern Africa was formed.(Ref.2.)
1962 The Nooitgedacht Dam in the Komati River was commissioned in 1962. 

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1963 Johannesburg sewerageThe capacity of the  Northern Works was extended to 57 Ml/day.  (Ref.11.)      
1963 Johannesburg sewerageThe Northern Works was officially opened by the Mayor, Councillor J.F.Oberholzer on 6 November 1963. It was adjudged by the South African Institute of Civil Engineers as one of the "Seven wonders of Civil Engineering in South Africa".  (Ref.11.)      
1963 The Wagendrift Dam  was constructed in 1963 on the Bushmans River to supply approximately 3000 ha of irrigation between the dam and the Thukela River.  The Wagendrift Dam takes its name from a drift through the Bushmans River used by transport wagons on their way from Port Natal to the goldfields of the Witwatersrand 0007095.JPG (53882 bytes)


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Opening of the Wagendrift Dam

1966 The Clanwilliam Dam (Olifants River) wall was raised by 6 m (3 m sluice gates). cwdam26aug.jpg (66109 bytes)
1966 Pretoria sewerage reticulation: The Baviaanspoort wastewater plant was completed to coincide with the completion of a 900 mm diameter outfall sewer from Mamalodi. (Ref.5)
1966 Great damage in Maputo and heavy rain in the Transvaal Lowveldt on 7 January 1996 due to a cyclone.(Ref.10)      
1967 The SA branch of the Institute of Sewage and Purification (ISP) changed its name to the Institute of Water Pollution Control (IWPC).
1967 Construction of the Idas Valley Dam in the Krom River (tributary of the Eerste River) near Stellenbosch. (Ref.1.)
1967 Construction of the Arieskraal Dam in the Palmiet River near Grabouw. (Ref.1.)

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1968 Severe flooding in Port Elizabeth on 1 September 1968. Communication links broken, streets demolished, buildings, buses, cars, trees, people and animals washed away. Damage estimated at R 400 million. Eleven people drowned. (Ref.10).      
1969 Construction of the Saulspoort Dam in the Liebenbergs River near Bethlehem in the Free State (Ref.1.)      
1969 Pretoria sewerage reticulation: During 1969 a second (Derdepoort/Rooiwal) outfall sewer from Pretoria East was constructed (Ref.5)      
  1970-1979 Back to top


The Bloemhof Dam in the Vaal River was commissioned in 1970. Also supply water to the Vaalharts scheme.

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1971 Construction of the Lorna Dawn Dam in the Middle Letaba River near Duiwelskloof. (Ref.1.)


The WRC was established in terms of the Water Research Act (Act No 34 of 1971), following a period of serious water shortage.  It was deemed to be of national importance to generate new knowledge and to promote the country’s water research purposefully, owing to the view held that water would be one of South Africa’s most limiting factors in the 21st century.  


The Gariep Dam is a combined gravity/arch dam and the wall is approximately 90 m high. The dam supplies water to the Sundays/Fish Rivers via a tunnel. The dam was completed in 1971.

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The Albasini Dam wall was raised (by means of spillway gates) in 1970/71. This dam was built primarily to supply the Levubu Irrigation Scheme. In the Luvuvhu River (Limpopo)

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History was made when the Department of Water Affairs’ first female engineer to work on a construction site, A Mouton, joined the team at Blyderivierspoort Dam. 

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The Natal College for Advanced Technical Education became on of the first colleges in South Africa (with the assistance of the Natal Group of the IWPC and the City Engineers Department of Durban), along with the Pretoria college to offer the new Water And Wastewater Purification Operators Course and Examination.


Pretoria sewerage reticulation: Completion of two new biofilter units, known as the Rooiwal East works. (Ref.5)      
1973 The Welbedacht Dam on the Caledon River was designed and constructed by the Department of Water Affairs and was completed in 1973.

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1974 On 4 March 1974 flooding caused millions of Rands' damage along the Modder and Riet Rivers. A Upington the Orange River flooded 80% of the houseson the island and along the river. Fish River valley experienced worst flood in 120 years. In Cradock 200 homes were inundated. (Ref.10).      


Established in 1974, Umgeni Water is one of Africa's most successful organisations involved in water management and the largest bulk water supplier in the province of KwaZulu-Natal.


Construction of the Lakenvalley Dam in the Sanddrifskloof River near Ceres. (Ref.1.)

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Construction of the Elandskloof Dam in the Elands River (tributary of the Riviersonderend) near Villiersdorp. (Ref.1.)
1974 Johannesburg Water Supply: Some PVC mains were laid as an experiment as steel pipe became difficult to obtain. (Ref 11). 
1975 Construction of the Spitskop Dam in the Harts River (tributary of the Vaal) near Warrenton. (Ref.1.)
1975 Johannesburg Water Supply: The Council started to line pipes with cement mortar in Saxonwold, but financial stringencies brought this to a halt in the following year. (Ref 11).       
March 1975 Barberspan in the North-West designated as a RAMSAR site on 12 March 1975.
March 1975 De Hoop Vlei in the Western Cape designated as a RAMSAR site on 12 March 1975.


The Orange-Fish tunnel is the longest continuous water tunnel in the world.  Its purpose is the inter-basin transfer of water from the Orange River to the Fish River valleys.  By any standards this is a major project.  The tunnel has a lined diameter of 5.35 m and in 82.5 km long.  The tunnel was officially opened by the Hon. BJ Vorster, the Prime Minister on August 22, 1975. (Great Dams in Southern Africa : Dr H Olivier)      


Johannesburg Water Supply: In 1975 the Rand Water Board began, after laboratory tests, to use polyelectrolytes in the water treatment process. At first, it did not seem to have a detrimental effect on the water quality supplied to Johannesburg . But towards the end of 1976 an increasing number of complaints were received about ‘dirty water’ which continued over subsequent years, particularly in the summer months. (Ref 11).       

January 1976

Some 50 people drowned as a result of floods caused by tropical cyclone Danae in 1976 when 426 mm fell in Levubu in January and there was heavy flooding in the Kruger National Park. (
1977 Pretoria sewerage reticulation: Extension of the Rooiwal East works to 60 Ml/day. (Ref.5)
1977 On 9 February 1977 a cyclone caused widespread flooding in the North-Eastern Regions of South Africa. Ten people drowned at Tshipise near the Kruger National Park. (Ref.10).      
1977 Construction of the Miertjieskraal Dam in the Brand River (tributary of the Gouritz) near Riversdale. (Ref.1.)

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The Sterkfontein Dam was commissioned in 1977. On the Nuwefaarspruit/Wilge River/ Vaal River.

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1977 Construction of the Misverstand Dam in the Groot Berg River near Piketberg. (Ref.1.)


The part of the Fish-Sundays River Scheme where water from the Orange River water is diverted from the Great Fish River to the Little Fish River via the 13,1 km Cookhouse Tunnel was completed in 1978. 


Construction of the Eikenhof Dam in the Palmiet River near Grabouw. (Ref.1.)


The construction of the PK le Roux dam was originally scheduled to be started during 1967—soon after the start of the Hendrik Verwoed dam project—and much of the construction of the preliminary works was in fact, carried out at the same time as those for the Hendrik Verwoed Dam.   A start on the main civil works for the dam was, however, delayed for a number of reasons, and in October 1967 the government decided to postpone its construction for a further indefinite period as part of its programme to curb inflation.  In 1970 tenders were again called for, but they were considerably higher than expected and the government therefore decided early in 1971 that the dam should be built by the Department of Water Affairs.  An immediate start was made and the project was scheduled for completion in June 1977. (The P. K. Le Roux dam has a wall of 765m tall in height, which makes it the highest in South Africa)

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1978 Construction of the Grootdraai Dam in the Vaal River near Standerton. (Ref.1.)
1978 Home, factories and flats in Pretoria flooded on 28 January 1978. 11 people dead. (Ref.10).      
1979 Pretoria sewerage reticulation: The first extensions to the Baviaanspoort wastewater plant consisted of a 14.5 Ml/day BNR plant, utilizing the 5-stage Bardenpho process. This was later upgraded to use the Phoredox process, increasing the capacity to 16 Ml/day. (Ref.5)      
1980-1989 Back to top
1980 Johannesburg Sewerage: In the late 1980’s, the Transvaal Province proposed that a new town Norweto be established on the farm Diepsloot adjacent to the Northern Sewage Purification Works. (Ref 11).       
1980 Construction of the Theewaterskloof Dam in the Reviersonderend River near Villiersdorp. (Ref.1.)

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1980 Sterkfontein Dam was raised in 1980 to its current height of 93m with a crest length of 3 060m and a full supply capacity of 2 656 million m3. (Ref.4.)

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Johannesburg Sewerage: Casper Coetzee who was the Plans Room Attendant in the Design Branch carried out one of his periodic spring cleanings and unearthed the old drawings of the slops line pumping scheme…[however] very little is known about the scheme (Ref 11).       


Laingsburg was devastated by a flood of the Buffels River on 25 January 1981. 104 people lost their lives and only 21 houses were left standing. (185 homes, an old-age home and 23 offices destroyed. (Ref.10).)


THE LAINGSBURG FLOOD - 25 JANUARY 1981 Television was still a novelty in South Africa when rain started falling gently over the head waters of the Buffalo River on 25th January 1981. The local farmers were at first grateful for the rain; the desolate semi-desert was parched and dry and even hardy sheep were struggling to survive. But the bluish shale soil of the area doesn’t absorb much water, and most of the rain drained straight into the river. A six meter high wall of water build up and ripped through Laingsburg, carrying away people, houses and the N1 road bridge. The Buffalo River that flows North-South through the town, bursts its banks. The confluence of the Wilgehout, Baviaans and Buffalo Rivers, resulted in large waves near the railway bridge. The streets running parallel to the river acted as swift flowing unobstructed water courses for the flood. This meant that residents could not cross these streets even when the water was less than a meter deep. Trapped by the fast running and swiftly rising water, the only course of action was for people to seek refuge on the rooftops of their houses, until these too were swept away by the flood. 425 mm of rain fell in two days. (24th and 25th of January 1981. The average annual rainfall is 175 mm) 104 people died and 184 houses were destroyed. Only 21 houses were undamaged. High-water marks are today indicated on lamp posts. (Ref 16) Flood4.png (119300 bytes)

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The watermill at Kleinplasie, Worcester is a replica of the one from Bovlei Farm in Clanwilliam.  The original cederwood water wheel is from the farm Dwarsrivier in Clanwilliam. The mill was reconstructed in 1981.

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The Ntshingwayo Dam (previously known as Chelmsford Dam) was raised in 1982. (near Newcastle)

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The Vondo Dam was completed in 1982 to provide domestic/industrial water for Thohoyandou and its surrounding areas. This was then raised in 1992 to increase the dam’s storage capacity six-fold to 30,5 million m³. (Mutshindudi River/Luvhuvu River/Limpopo River)


Johannesburg Water Supply: In the Annual Report of the Director of Technical Services, in 1982/1983, Dr JG Mortimer states: 'The drought continued remorselessly and led to progressively stricter water restrictions in an effort to conserve dwindling water reserves'. (Ref 11). 


Johannesburg Water Supply: Burst main reports increased to about five hundred per week. (Ref 9)


On 1 February 1984, the tropical cyclone Demoina killed more than 200 people in  Mozambique, Swaziland, Eastern Transvaal and North-Eastern Natal. Damage to sugar cane fields estimated at R 470 million. Damages to bridges estimated at R 25 million. Most rain to fall in one day at one point ever recorded in South Africa (597 mm at St Lucia lake). (Ref.10).


Construction on phase 1A of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (the Katse Dam) began in 1984.
1984 Construction of the Goedertrouw Dam in the Mhlatuze River near Eshowe. (Ref.1.)
1984 Construction of the Rhenosterkop Dam in the Elands River near Marble Hall. (Ref.1.)

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1984 Construction of the Roodekopjies Dam in the Crocodile River near Brits. (Ref.1.)

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1984 Construction of the Kogelberg Dam in the Palmiet River near Grabouw. (Ref.1.)

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1984 Construction of the Stettynskloof Dam in the Stettynskloof River near Worcester. (Ref.1.)

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Johannesburg Water Supply: A saving of 26% was achieved in comparison to the year before restrictions, in spite of developments and expansions. (Ref 11).       


In 1960 the height of the Vaal Dam was raised to 63.5 m.

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1985 Construction of the Heyshope Dam in the Assegaai River near Wakkerstroom. (Ref.1.)
1985 Major hailstorm striking Pretoria city center and surroundings on 1 November 1985. Damage estimated at R 400 million. Roofs collapsed, windows of cars, homes and flats knocked out. (Ref.10).      
1985 Pretoria sewerage reticulation: The construction of the Biological Mutrient Removal (BNR) plant at Rooiwal (known as the Rooiwal North Works) commenced in March 1983 with a design capacity of 110 Ml/day. With the integration of this new plant with the old Rooiwal West works it brought the total BNR capacity to 150 Ml/day. This plant which incorporates a bubble aeration system, was commissioned in 1985. (Ref.5)
1985 Johannesburg Water Supply: Due to the continuing drought conditions, water was released from the Sterkfontein Dam to maintain the quantity stored in the Vaal Dam at 15,5% of a capacity (Ref 11).       
1985 Institute of Water Pollution Control (WISA) - All aspects if water pollution and its control were reviewed at the biennial conference of the South African Branch of the IWPC held in Durban.  Attending the conference were almost 350 scientists and engineers. The conference was opened by the Deputy Minister of Agricultural Economics and of Water Affairs, Mr GJ Kotze, and addressed by the President of the Institute, Mr John O'Neill from England. Other activities included the banquet, Civic reception and farewell party.  Post-conference tours were organised to Durban's Northern Wastewater treatment plant and Umgeni Water Board's Wiggins Water Works.  (Ref 26)

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Mr Piet Odendaal (Chairman of IWPC), left, and Mr John O'Neill (President of IWPC)

1986 Construction of the Paul Sauer Dam in the Koega River near Patensie. (Ref.1.)
October 1986 Blesbokspruit  in Gauteng designated as a RAMSAR site on 2 October 1986.      
October 1986 De Mond (Heuningnes Estuary)  in the Western Cape designated as a RAMSAR site on 2 October 1986.      
October 1986 St Lucia System in KwaZulu Natal designated as a RAMSAR site on 2 October 1986.      
October 1986 Turtle Beaches/Coral Reffs of Tongaland in KwaZulu Natal designated as a RAMSAR site on 2 October 1986.      
1986 Pretoria water supply:  Due to the continual debilitation of the water quality from the Rietvlei Dam, it was decided to appoint consulting engineers to investiagted the causes and solutions in cooperation with the National Institute of Water Research at the CSIR. This led to the upgrading of the purification works that commenced in 1986.(Ref.7)      


The National ("N") Certificate Courses N1, N2 and N3 in Water and Wastewater Treatment Practice were introduced (Technical Colleges)
1986 Johannesburg Water Supply: On October 24 1986 Lesotho and South Africa signed a treaty in Maseru which approved the Lesotho Highlands Water Project. The project will be completed in four phases over thirty years, at a cost of 10 billion. (Ref 11).       


The Water Institute of Southern Africa (WISA) was formed in 1987 when the Southern African branch of the Institute of Water Pollution Control (formerly the institute of Sewage Purification), which had served the water industry in Southern Africa for a period of 50 years, was disbanded.


Descibed as the worst floods in Natal ever. On 28 september 1987, homes washed away, collapsed or buried in mud. Thousands kilometers of roads damaged, 14 bridges washed away, all entrance routes to durban closed. R 3 300 million damage, 388 deaths and 68 000 homeless. (Ref.10).      


Collapse of the John Ross Bridge on the N2 over the Thukela River during the Natal floods. 120 bridges were destroyed or severely damaged during these floods, causing substantial losses to the economy.  (Ref 12)

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1988 Johannesburg Water Supply: In July, the Water Branch, an integral part of the City Engineer’s Department for many years was transferred in order to form a new Water and Gas Department. (Ref 11).       
1988 On 29 February 1988, one of the greatest flood disasters ever occurred in the Free State, Western Transvaal, Northern Cape and Karoo. In Free State 47 bridges destroyed. 1300 homes evacuated in the Northern Cape. Thirty magisterial districts declared disaster areas. (Ref.10).      
October 1986 Langebaan  in the Western Cape designated as a RAMSAR site on 25 April 1988.      


The Zaaihoek Dam (Slang River/Buffalo River/Thukela River) was constructed in 1988 with an original capacity of 193 million m3.  Used to transfer water to the Vaal system and the Majuba Power Station.

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1988 Knellpoort Dam (50 m high - off-channel storage dam - water pumped from the Caledon River) was completed in 1988. It was the first arch gravity Roller Compacted Concrete (RCC) dam in the world 3.

Planning for the Berg river dam began in 1989 by the South African Department of Water Affairs and Forestry. The process started with an analysis of future needs and water resources in the region, and was subjected to rigorous public participation process and debate. In 1995/6 a comprehensive "Evaluation of Options" study was undertaken, a process in which more than 1,100 individuals and organisations took part. Extensive environmental and social impact studies were undertaken during 1996 and 1997. The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism approved the project in 1999. In April 2002, the Cabinet approved the construction of the dam on condition that the City of Cape Town reduces the demand for water by 20% by 2020. Construction began in July 2004. The dam started storing water in July 2007 and was full a year later thanks to good rainfall. According to the South African government, the decision to build the dam was taken only after an extensive review of the alternative options. It also involved an intensive public consultation process.


The Berg River Dam was the first dam in South Africa to be designed, constructed and operated in accordance with the guidelines of the World Commission on Dams (Ref 20)

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1989 Pretoria sewerage reticulation: The  Baviaanspoort wastewater plant was extended by 20 Ml/day. Module 1 has now been converted to a Phoredox system. (Ref.5)      
1990-1999 Back to top


On 20 March 1990 a tornado caused structural damage of R 230 million in Welkom. Twenty square km affected (Ref.10).      


Johannesburg sewerage: A survey of the world’s 100 largest urban areas [was] conducted by the Washington-based Population Crisis Committee [and] placed Johannesburg No 72 just ahead of Manila, Alexandria and Bangkok. (Ref 11).       


Tshakhuma Dam was completed in 1990 to supply the Tshakhuma Irrigation scheme (Barotta River/Luvhuvu River/Limpopo River)


Pretoria sewerage reticulation: Due to a shortage of water in the Pienaars River valley, the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry requested the Council to construct a new wastewater treatment plant in that valley. This led to the extended planning of the Eastern Pretoria drainage area that commenced in 182. Environmental impact studies and searches for a suitable site led to the purchase of a number of plots to the west of the Roodeplaat Dam. A new plant, the Zeekoegat Works, with a BNR capacity of 30 Ml/day was constructed and commissioned in 1991. (Ref.5)

June 1991

Verlorevlei  in the Western Cape designated as a RAMSAR site on 28 June 1991.

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June 1991

Wilderness Lakes in the Western Cape designated as a RAMSAR site on 28 June 1991.
June 1991 Orange River Mouth in the Northen Cape designated as a RAMSAR site on 28 June 1991.      
June 1991 Lake Sibaya in KwaZulu Natal designated as a RAMSAR site on 28 June 1991.
June 1991 Kosi Bay in KwaZulu Natal designated as a RAMSAR site on 28 June 1991.      


The Vondo Dam raised in 1992 to increase the dam’s storage capacity six-fold to 30,5 million m³. (Mutshindudi River/Luvhuvu River/Limpopo River)
1992 The lower Fish River Scheme (initiated in 1985) was completed in 1992. The scheme consists of the Hermanuskraal Weir in the Great Fish River with a tunnel to discharge flood water and water released from the Orange River into the Glen Melville Dam in the Ecca River. 


The East Rand Water Care Company (ERWAT) is regarded as a leader in the water industry, using the latest technology and the advances of science. ERWAT offers a world-class, yet economic solution to water and wastewater management.

1993 Port Elizabeth water supply: The Nooitgedagt Water Treatment Works was officially opened by Councillor FH Kotze, Chairman of the Works and Traffic Committee, and in the presence of the Mayor, Mr JC Nel, on Friday, 20 August 1993. The opening was followed by a lunch at the local NG church hall. The commissioning of the Nooitgedagt Water Treatment Works meant that water from Gariep Dam was now used by residential and industrial users of the Port Elizabeth metropolitan area and the linkage achieved one of the original objectives of the Orange River Development Project. (Ref.8)      
1993 On 3 November 1993 a tornado devasted a path of 35 km long and 200 m wide at Utrecht. 40 people lost their homes in Glencoe. 7 people killed. (Ref.10).      
1993 The 38m high Zoeknog Dam, constructed in the Mutlumuvi River, a tributary of the Sand River, failed on first filling.  The dam was constructed for the Lebowa government mainly for irrigation purposes.  Investigations revealed that the dam, which had received an award from SAICE the previous year, had failed because of poor construction. Reconstructing the dam was later deemed uneconomical, and the remainder of the dam wall was demolished in 2000. (Ref. 23)      


Prof Kader ASMAL became the first Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry in the post-apartheid era of South Africa (May 1994 - June 1999)

1994 Worst flood in 78 years occurred on 2 February 1994 at Ladismith (KwaZulu Natal). Damage of R 60 million. More than 1000 families left homeless. (Ref.10).      
1994 Port Elizabeth water supply: A key development in the water supply occurred in July 1994 when the residential areas of Ibhayi, Kwadwesi, Kwamagxaki and Motherwell were amalgamated with the rest of the city. Over the years these townships had been administered by one or more of the following: Bantu Administration Board, East Cape Development Board, Cape Provincial Administration and local authorities Kayamnandi, Motherwell and Ibhayi. (Ref.8)      
Nov.1994 White Paper on Water Supply and Sanitation Policy (November 1994). " This document is dedicated to the millions of our citizens who struggle daily with the burden of not having the most basic of services. The time has come to take your destinies into your own hands with the assurance of support from our new democratic State." (Department of Water Affairs and Forestry)



The Damani Dam (built in the mid 1990’s) was originally constructed to supply water to the Damani Coffee Estate (now dormant). It is now proposed to supply the Damani Regional Water Supply Scheme from this dam. In the Luvuvhu River (Limpopo)


Water and sanitation for all: According to the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 (Act 108 of 1996), everyone has a right to clean and safe drinking water and an appropriate and dignified sanitation service.
Oct. 1996 National Sanitation Policy (October 1996). " This policy has been produced in recognition of the many people of our country, and in particular the children, that have endured illness and hardship as a result of not having access to basic information about sanitation or the use of adequate facilities. " (Department of Water Affairs and Forestry)    


Pretoria currently operates four wastewater treatment plants, namely Daspoort (45 Ml/day), Baviaanspoort (36 Ml/day), Zeekoegat (30 Ml/day) and Rooiwal (210 Ml/day). (Ref.5)
Jan. 1997 Natal Drakensberg Park in KwaZulu Natal designated as a RAMSAR site on 21 January 1997.
Jan. 1997 Ndomo Game Reserve in KwaZulu Natal designated as a RAMSAR site on 21 January 1997.
Jan. 1997 Seekoeivlei Nature Reserve in the Free State designated as a RAMSAR site on 21 January 1997.
Apr. 1997 WHITE PAPER ON A NATIONAL WATER POLICY FOR SOUTH AFRICA (April 1997). " This White Paper is the product of two years of hard work and wide consultation. The first outcome was the production of the Fundamental Principles and Objectives for a New Water Law in South Africa which were approved by the Cabinet in November 1996. These Principles have in turn guided an intensive programme of work involving the Minister and other political leaders, officials from the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry and other Government Departments, organised user groups and South Africans from all walks of life and from all provinces in a process of consultation, research and synthesis. " (Department of Water Affairs and Forestry)    

May 1997

In May 1997, the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry announced that an important milestone had been reached. The completion of a new scheme in Modderspruit in the North West Province saw the one millionth person receiving a basic water supply from the RDP programme. (DWAF A decade of Water Services in South Africa 1994 - 2004)


Amatola Water Board was established in November 1997.


In 1997 the name of Institution of Municipal Engineers of Southern Africa was changed to The Institution of Municipal Engineering of Southern Africa (IMESA). It is also now possible for non-engineers to become members so as to cater for previously disadvantaged members. (Ref.2.)


In November 1997, the Water Services Act (Act 108 of 1997) legislated DWAF’s 1994 White Paper vision that local government would ultimately take responsibility for water services. The Act made a clear distinction between Water Services Authorities (WSAs) and Water Services Providers (WSPs). (DWAF A decade of Water Services in South Africa 1994 - 2004)


The "New Water Act" ( National Water Act, 1998) (Act 36 of 1998), was implemented.


Phase 1A of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (the Katse Dam) began delivering water in 1998.
July 1998 Nylsvley Nature Reserve in Limpopo designated as a RAMSAR site on 7 July 1998.
July 1999

Draft Water Conservation and Demand management National Strategy Framework  (May 1999). " This document lays out the key principles, legislative, economic and social frameworks that would guide a national water conservation and demand management strategy.  " (Department of Water Affairs and Forestry)



Mr Ronald Kasrils became Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry of the Republic of South Africa (1999 - 2004).


Ref.1. Management of the WATER RESOURCES of the Replubic of SOUTH AFRICA. The Department of Water Affairs. 1986.

Ref.2. Institute for Municipal Engineering in South Africa. (

Ref.3. Tony Murray. History of Rivers and Drainage in the Cape Metropolitan Area. 

Ref.4. Department of Water Affairs and Forestry - Sterkfontein Dam ( )

Ref.5. Scanned document "Sewerage reticulation and waste water treatment" received from Mr.Koot Snyman of City of Tshwane.

Ref.6. WISA: PAST AND PRESENT (Acknowledgement: The idea for this started while chatting with Eric Hall, who also started the ball rolling with some of his memories. The bulk of what is contained here is the work of Dave Osborne - also known as the "father" of WISA - who painstakingly researched the issue, and to whom we are deeply indepted)

Ref.7. Scanned document "THE HISTORY OF WATER SUPPLY TO PRETORIA" received from Mr.Koot Snyman of City of Tshwane.

Ref.8. Raymer, David Anthony A HISTORY OF PORT ELIZABETH AND UITENHAGE’S WATER SUPPLYRaymer, David Anthony, civil engineer. Employed as graduate engineer in July 1980. Promoted to Assistant Water Engineer in 1988 and Water Engineer (Operations) in 1990. Appointed  Assistant Manager (Bulk Water & Water Management) in 2004. Resigned in February 2007 to work for consultants. He is the author of the book, Streams of Life: A History of Port Elizabeth and Uitenhage’s Water Supply. * Port Elizabeth 22.8.1953

Ref.9. Information by e-mail: DARRYL MOSS. General Manager - Mining Distribution. Metso Minerals. E-mail:

Ref.10. Grobler, Roger R. (1996). A Framework for Modelling Losses arising from Natural Catastrophes in South Africa. University of Pretoria. 

Ref.11. Grant, George & Flinn, Taffy (1992). Watershed Town. The History of the Johannesburg City Engineer's Department.

Ref.12.  Rand Water Corporate Profile
Ref.13.  On route in South Africa - BPJ Erasmus
Ref.14.  Discovering Southern Africa - T. V. Bulpin
Ref.15.  Water Wheel -May/June 2008
Ref. 16 THE LAINGSBURG FLOOD - 25 JANUARY 1981 “The memories will remain with those who witnessed and experienced this disaster” -
Ref. 17 Wikipedia
Ref. 18 Water Wheel (November/December 2011)
Ref. 19 Great Dams in South Africa - Henry Olivier
Ref. 20 Wikipedia -
Ref. 21 DWA -
Ref. 22:  Water History (Water Wheel - WRC) :
Ref. 23:  In the Footsteps of Giants - Exploring the history of South Africa's large dams [Lani v Vuuren - WRC] 
Ref. 24: ~ SANPARKS
Ref. 25: Source: CONTACT - City of Cape Town newsletter
Ref. 26: SA Waterbulletin August 1985