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There are three legal requirements that must be met before a person may construct, alter or repair a dam, namely dam safety, entitlement to water use and environmental legislation.

1. New dams, alterations to existing dams or repair of dams that failed.

    • The first step is to apply for classification of the dam on form DW 692E. The Department will then inform the applicant of the classification of the dam and of further procedures.

    • If the dam is classified as a category I dam, apply for a licence to construct on form DW 694E and submit construction drawings. (Construction may only commence after the licence to construct has been issued).

    • If the dam is classified as a category II or III dam, the services of an approved professional person/engineer (APP) must be obtained. The APP must apply for a licence to construct on behalf of the dam owner (this involves the submission of an application form, design report, engineering drawings and construction specifications). (Construction may only commence after the licence to construct has been issued). The APP must also ensure that an adequate quality control programme is in place during the construction period. Before starting with storage of water, the APP must apply for a licence to impound (this involves the submission of an operation and maintenance manual and emergency preparedness plan together with an application form DW 696E). After completion of all construction work, the APP must submit a completion report, completion drawings and a completion certificate stating that the work has been completed according to his/her specifications.

    • A Water Use Licence or written authorisation must be obtained from the Regional Director of the relevant region.

    • In the case of dams that failed, existing lawful water use (subject to verification) will normally be acknowledged but it is essential that confirmation is obtained in writing from the Regional Director.

    • It will be required (Government Notice GN 385, GN 386 and GN 387, dated 21 April 2006, promulgated in terms of sections 24, 24D and 24[5], read with section 44, of the National Environment Conservation Act, 1998 (Act 107 of 1998) that an environmental impact assessment (EIA) must be carried out before construction of a new dam or raising/re-construction of an existing dam will be authorised. Written authorisation must be obtained from the relevant provincial department before commencing with the project.

    • On completion, dams with a safety risk must be registered on form DW 693E.

2. Existing dams.

    • All dams with a safety risk must be registered on form DW 693E.

    • The Department must be notified of any changes of particulars (dam owner, address, telephone numbers, person in control, etc.)

    • The dam must be operated and maintained in a responsible manner. Basically this requires that the owner, or the person appointed by the owner, will visit and inspect the dam on a regular (at least weekly) basis. Maintenance work must be done regularly. In the case of unsafe conditions, emergency procedures and safety measures must be taken and the Department informed thereof.

    • The dam owner must arrange for the execution of a formal dam safety inspection when instructed to do so by the Department (at intervals between 5 and 10 years). In the case of category II and III dams the inspection must be done by an APP. In the case of category I dams it is not prescribed by whom the inspection must be done but it is in the owner's interest to appoint an experienced person to perform this task. If necessary, the inspection report will indicate what work should be done to upgrade the dam to acceptable safety standards.

    • Section 21(b) of the NWA defines storage of water as a water use. If more than 10 000 m3 or more than 1,0 hectare of water is stored, then that water use must be registered on a form that will be supplied by the Regional Director for this purpose. However, in some Water Management Areas the general authorisation does not allow any dam, irrespective of size, outside the licensing procedure and in those areas all dams must be registered.

    • Dam owners are encouraged to check if their dams are registered (link to List of Registered Dams) and to inform the Dam Safety Office if any information needs to be updated.

    • An Overlay for use in programmes like Google Earth is available (link to Google Earth Overlay) to display the position of registered dams on a map or on a satellite image. Not all the positions are accurate and if incorrect, it will be appreciated if the correct latitude and longitude can be submitted to the Dam Safety Office.

    • The public living downstream of dams are encouraged to use the List of Registered Dams and the Overlay to check if dams in their area are registered and to notify the Regional Office or the Dam Safety Office if they know about dams with a safety risk that are not registered. A dam with a safety risk is a dam with a maximum wall height of more than 5m and with a storage capacity of more than 50 000 m3.

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