The Department of Water and Sanitation warns communities downstream of Vaal and Orange rivers to steer clear of floodplains as heavy rains continue

File - The Vaal Dam is overflowing and authorities have opened 10 sluice gates in an effort to mitigate against flooding. Picture: Antoine de Ras

File - The Vaal Dam is overflowing and authorities have opened 10 sluice gates in an effort to mitigate against flooding. Picture: Antoine de Ras

Published Feb 18, 2023


Johannesburg - The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) has sent a warning to communities downstream of the Vaal and Orange rivers as water releases are activated to ease dam pressure during heavy rains which could possibly lead to flooding, as water levels could increase significantly should heavy rains continue.

Department of Water and Sanitation spokesperson Wisane Mavasa said: “The DWS is currently implementing its Flood Preparedness Plan to ensure the safety of individuals and infrastructure, to minimise disruption of services, destruction of property and livelihoods due to flooding, and to guarantee that dams are 100% full at the end of the flood season if received rains would have enabled it.

“Due to the continuing heavy rains in large parts of the country, many rivers are overflowing, and most dams are full and spilling. The same is occurring in the Vaal and Orange River System. The water level has risen rapidly and made it necessary to open more gates at Vaal Dam. Six had already been opened and an additional four gates were opened on Friday to release more water, bringing the total to 10,” Mavasa said.

More gates are expected to either be opened or closed over the next few days, depending on the weather conditions and the changes in the river flow levels. The Bloemhof dam will also be monitored closely as an increased outflow was recorded on Friday.

The department has further warned that as rainfall and floods are a natural phenomenon and, therefore, control of the events may be limited, people should stay out of harm’s way by ensuring that they avoid putting essential services and human settlements within parts of the floodplains that are prone to frequent flooding.

Mavasa said: “We appeal to the farmers to be extra careful when the water levels rise, especially along the river system. They should adjust their water pumps, remove livestock and equipment out and away from the riverbanks. We also appeal to the general community to avoid fishing or swimming during heavy rains.

“We also encourage communities to harvest rain during this summer's rainfalls to augment water supply at their households.”

Every year ahead of the high flow summer season rains, the department develops and implements flood monitoring and forecasting systems, assesses the likelihood of flood incidents and its own preparedness to mitigate the adverse effects of these floods on its infrastructure and guarantee full capacity on its storage reservoirs.

“All requisite measures are put in place to ensure that the department will be able manage floods effectively.

“All gauging equipment at sites used for flood monitoring are equipped with real-time river and dam level data transmission capability. These data are analysed to determine rainfall, river and dam level trends which enable the detection of the possibility and timing of flooding.” said Mavasa.