The Western Cape Department of Agriculture will today (20 January 2017) conduct a site visit to Clanwilliam after reports of a canal break earlier this week.

A panel in one of the canals near the Bulshoek Dam broke and was washed away, due to aging infrastructure. The resulting hole was reducing water supply to the farms during the critical irrigation period and to local communities for household use. The water supply is needed to irrigate table grapes and vineyards. In 2015, one of the canals running off the Clanwilliam Dam collapsed, costing the agriculture sector R100 million.

Alan Winde, Minister of Economic Opportunities, explained that the Provincial Department of Agriculture was halfway through a R4 million proactive maintenance programme for the Clanwilliam dam canals. While the dam’s maintenance does not fall under the province’s mandate, these funds were released on an emergency basis given the importance of the infrastructure to the agriculture sector in the area.

Under the National Water Act, the Lower Olifants River Water Users Association is responsible for the maintenance and management of the facilities. Due to increasing costs of maintaining the aging infrastructure, this association did not have the funds to purchase the equipment needed in 2015. The dam is owned by the National Department of Water and Sanitation.

“In 2015, the Provincial Department of Agriculture allocated emergency funding of close to R1 million to procure a generator and water pumps to stabilise the water supply to farms and residents in the area, after a section of the dam near Klawer collapsed. Although this is the responsibility of the National Department of Water and Sanitation, we know that the damage affects farmers and residents, posing a threat to the local agriculture sector and seasonal jobs. Estimates of the loss to agriculture for the 2015 incident are around R100 million. That is why, shortly after, we committed to a proactive maintenance plan.

“According to the plan, the Lower Olifants River Water Users Association assists the Department of Agriculture in identifying the most critical areas for maintenance. In 2016, we invested R1.2 million in fixing a 1 200m stretch near Verdeling. This year, repair work on a 1 400m section of the canal near Vredendal is earmarked as priority area,” said Minister Winde.

A complete report on this incident is due next week.

For media queries, kindly contact:

Bronwynne Jooste
Spokesperson: Alan Winde, Minister of Economic Opportunities
Responsible for Tourism, Economic Development and Agriculture
Western Cape Government

Tel: 021 483 3550
Cell: 060 970 4301
Twitter: bronwynnejooste