Agricultural Dams Provide Drought Insurance

2South Africa is on the edge of a water crisis as the current drought, the worst in decades, continues. Many urban areas are experiencing water restrictions and some communities are without potable water. This is under pinned by the widespread donation of water bottles at collection points across the country for transportation to the worse hit areas.

Many farmers helplessly watch their crops die along with any hope of income for a year, while feed for livestock is being collected and trucked to farmers to prevent animals from dying of starvation.

“This dire situation can be helped, to some extent, by building more dams to serve urban needs and as mitigation against the effects of drought. We specialise in the planning, design, construction, rehabilitation and safety requirements of dams ranging from small stock watering dams and large agricultural dams to large municipal structures,” explains Mark Zartmann of MBB Pietermaritzburg.

3“Building a farm dam is similar to putting money in the bank,” he continued. “Even though a farmer may not be able to water all his crops in a drought he will be able to irrigate and maintain a portion and so ensure some income. The entire country benefits from the ripple effect of increased food security,” he explained.

Although this is site specific, a sizable agricultural dam, containing between 500,000m3 and 1,000,000m3 of water often exceeds the value, in potential crop yield, of the construction cost.

A dam can be one of a farm’s most valuable assets and properly maintained will provide year round water security, have a long life span and add to the property’s value. However, good water management and an efficient irrigation system are essential for minimising water use and maximising crop yields.

Fixing problems early saves money, ensures maximum return on capital investment, helps the infrastructure perform optimally and secures irrigation water. However, dam maintenance, especially on agricultural dams is often overlooked. Uneven crests, seeping or leaking walls, unchecked vegetation growth on embankments, spillway scour or erosion and failing outlet pipes or valves are often neglected and can cause major problems. 

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“A five yearly Dam Safety Inspection is mandated by the Department of Water & Sanitation (DWS) on dams with a safety risk. This must be conducted by an Approved Professional Person. We employ qualified people who undertake these inspections and submit reports to the Dam Safety Office of DWS.

“MBB offers full dam maintenance plans and assists with dam rehabilitation. This includes the repair of leaking dams, raising dams and mending eroded spillways. We also provide a full range of services to cover all requirements from the conceptualisation of an effective water storage system to its implementation,” Mark concluded.