n Civil Engineering = Siviele Ingenieurswese - Large dams and the environment : SA's cooperative history (1945-1980) : environmental engineering

Volume 21, Issue 7
  • ISSN : 1021-2000



Throughout the ages the lives of people and water have been inextricably linked. On a planet that is mostly covered in water, but where less than 2.5% of it is fresh, the ability of societies to regulate and manipulate the water that is available to them has not only been key to their progress and development, but to their very survival.

To overcome its climatic variability and water scarcity South Africa has historically depended on the construction of large dams to stabilise supply. These dams typically store two to three times the mean annual flow of the rivers in which they are constructed.
The country was a relative late-comer to the modern dam construction boom, which started after the Second World War. Yet, while dam construction has slowed dramatically in South Africa in the last two decades, the country still occupies the number six spot on the list of the International Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD), which ranks member countries according to their number of large dams. By 2012 a total of 4 755 dams had been registered with the Department of Water Affairs (DWA) Dam Safety Office (including medium large-sized dams).
This article explores the evolution of environmental awareness in the water resource development sector - more specifically within the DWA as the country's main designer and builder of large dams.

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