Menu Close

Factors leading to the construction of Vaaldam

Factors leading to the construction of the Vaaldam

History of the Rand Water Board as printed in the publication “Vereeniging 1892 – 1967” the story of a South African town recording its growth during 75 years from a riverside colliery village to a major centre of the Republic’s industry. (Statistics are Circa 1967)
It was not long after the gold rush before the small streams on the Witwatersrand were unable to supply sufficient water for the prospector’s needs. Sir James Sievewright headed a syndicate, which was granted a concession to supply the area with water. In 1887 the Johannesburg Waterworks Estate and Exploration Company Ltd. was formed which sourced its water from the area.
Barney Barnato soon had a controlling interest in the company. Boreholes had to be sunk to meet the growing demand. About 6.8 million litres was supplied daily. A severe drought in 1895 raised the price of water to two shillings and sixpence a bucket.
Water was now being sourced from Zuurbekom and the Klip River. In 1902 steps were taken to form the Rand Water Board to replace the private companies and supply water from Springs to Randfontein. Using the Klip River and newly sunken boreholes at Zwartkoppies 10 million gallons was supplied daily. The Barrage was designed to provide an additional 10 million gallons a day.
The newly formed Rand Water Board developed its rights in the Klip River Valley, boreholes were sunk in the dolomite underlying the far Zwartkoppies and adjoining farms, and by the middle of 1910 the board was supplying 10 million gallons per day. It was now recognised that an ample supply of water for the Witwatersrand ultimately depended on developing a river scheme, and in 1913 they proceeded with the “Lindeque’s” scheme on the Vaal River.
The Vaal is the major tributary of the Orange River. It rises in the highlands of the then Transvaal and is the most important river draining the inland plateau. It is important as the boundary between this province and the Free State and its juxtaposition to the diamond mines of Kimberley and the gold and coalmines of the Northern Free State and Southern.
Vaal dam-1932


In terms of the Rand Water Board Supplementary Water Supply (Private) Act 1914, the Board decided to construct a barrage at the Lindeque’s site, 25 miles down stream from Vereeniging where the Vaal River had a width of 620 feet. This barrage was designed to provide an additional 10 million gallons a day, but the outbreak of the 1914 – 18 world war delayed construction until 1918. Work commenced on the 1,400 -ft wide barrage, as well as river intakes and the main plant in Vereeniging which included pumping plant, sedimentary tanks, filters and clear water reservoir.

Despite every effort at reduction, water consumption had reached 13.448 million gallons per day in 1920. On July 2nd 1922,


The construction of Vaaldam began in 1934 following the enactment of the Vaal River Development Act, No. 38 of the same year. The wall was fully completed in 1938. Deneys Reitz, who served as Minister of Agriculture at the time, visited the site in 1935. He had played a role in initiating the Vaal-Hartzscheme and had previously visited the alluvial diamond diggings along the nearby Vaal River during his tenure as Minister of Land. The quarry, now part of the Deneysville Aquatic Club, provided the materials for building the original wall.

In 1952, as industry rapidly expanded and the O.F.S. Goldfields developed, the wall was raised by approximately 6 meters. This included the addition of 60 sluice gates. In 1958, the wall underwent further strengthening and a 3-meter increase in height. An outlet and tunnel were also constructed to supply water to the Suikerbosrand purification plant. The water previously obtained from the Barrage downstream of the dam, had become heavily contaminated with bacteria, posing challenges for purification.

Vaal Dam, the third largest dam in the country, boasts the longest shoreline due to the flat terrain, which includes the confluence of the Vaal and Wilge rivers. The dam is navigable up to the low-level bridge at Oranjeville, and further up the Vaal River to Villiers and beyond. The Jim Fouche Resort area has a vast, shallow surface that quickly reverts to a river when water levels drop during dry seasons. Water is also sourced from the Highlands Scheme and Sterkfontein Dam. Interestingly, the planned capacity increase for the Highland Scheme has been canceled due to the expected minimal population growth resulting from the AIDS epidemic.

In 1987, the dam’s water level dropped to around 13%, causing the island to connect to the mainland. Hawaii, the “underwater island,” emerged as a peninsula, revealing a mass nesting ground for seagulls known as Beacon Island. The weather in the area is varied and unpredictable, as it is located at the edge of the cyclonic belt that brings thunderstorms to the Witwatersrand. Strong winds, including occasional tornadoes and gusts exceeding 60 knots, are common. The prevailing westerly winds are occasionally interrupted by strong easterlies that generate two-meter waves, pounding the Deneysville shores.

The dam is home to various wildlife, including otters, snakes. It also supports populations of yellowtail, carp, and barbel, with some reaching lengths of up to three meters. Divers at the dam’s wall often express fear of the unknown, with rumors of a Vaal Dam monster circulating among them. Freshwater prawns have also been sighted in the dam. While the dam was once commonly referred to as Lake Deneys, the name Vaal Dam remains in use and widely recognized.

Technical Advances -1930 From a review published by the Star newspaper.
On February 22, 1934, The Star announced a bold Government plan to harness the waters of the fickle Vaal River, which only five months before had run dry. The summer of 1934 witnessed billions of litres of floodwater going to waste simply because the Vaal had no storage capacity.
The £3.5 million cost would not only give the country the biggest irrigation scheme down to Vaalhartz, but supply the Rand, with it’s expansion, with all the water needed for the next 50 years. (The time span was spot on: 50 years later, to the year, the Rand was in the grip of one of it’s worst ever droughts.
The lake to be formed was unofficially called Lake Deneys. The Star wrote of how this vast stretch of water would be a recreational boon to the Rand. In fact it was to remain a mostly bare, featureless scene.
Seraphinite AcceleratorOptimized by Seraphinite Accelerator
Turns on site high speed to be attractive for people and search engines.