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The Groot Letaba River Water Development Project (GLeWaP) is a major initiative by the DWS in support of the Limpopo Provincial Government’s development strategy.

The project will have a positive impact on the regional economics and on eradicating poverty, this will mainly be achieved through:

  • Increasing the safe, reliable water supplies for domestic and industrial use;
  • Minimizing the frequency, intensity and duration of restriction on the use of water allocated for irrigation of high value crops;
  • An increase in total household income through stabilising the job market;
  • Providing leverage for the equitable distribution of resources.

The proposed infrastructure will make it possible to improve the anagement of water resources so as to stop degradation of the conservation status of the riverine ecosystem.

The GLeWaP includes a number of infrastructure components, as well as a range of other initiatives.

Non-infrastructure options

The Department is pursuing the following non-infrastructure options to make more water available:

Water conservation and demand management, as well as water recycling and re-use

The aim is to ensure that increased efficiency and effectiveness of water use will help address some of the short- and long-term water requirements of the area.

Local groundwater resources

During the feasibility studies in the 1990s and from recent investigations, it was found that although groundwater cannot be considered as the only source of water to satisfy increasing needs, it can be used to good effect for small-scale domestic water supplies and food plot irrigation. In this area with limited water resources the conjunctive use of ground and surface water should be promoted. Groundwater resources should be developed incrementally to increase yields, but with ongoing monitoring to ensure good water quality. The Department will make recommendations to local authorities in this regard.

Removal of invading alien vegetation

DWS’s Working for Water Programme is actively removing invasive alien vegetation in the Groot Letaba Valley as a means of improving the yield in the river system.

Regional economic assessment

This assessment would consider the developmental impact that construction of the project infrastructure and making additional water available will have on the economy of the region and of the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and to which sectors water would best be allocated. It will also evaluate potential benefits to Mozambique as a spin-off from the economic development plans for the project area.

Irrigation efficiencies

Irrigators in the river system, and particularly those reliant on Tzaneen Dam, are regularly subject to restrictions on the water available. Allocations are currently set at 50% of the annual quota as a result of the current drought conditions and low levels of water in storage. This has a significant impact on fruit production and on the socio-economy of the region. The irrigation sector already relies on modern technology and has invested heavily in management and sophisticated equipment to improve water use efficiency.

Reserve determination

In accordance with the National Water Act (NWA) [PDF - 240KB], the Reserve is that portion of water required to meet basic human needs, and the needs of the aquatic ecosystem. The DWS undertook a Preliminary Reserve Determination for the Groot Letaba River in 2006, and the resulting requirements will be taken into account in both the yield analysis and technical design of the project.

Institutional arrangements

It is foreseen that the DWS will be the owner of the water resource components of the project. This will be revisited as and when new institutions such as the proposed National Water Resource Infrastructure Agency and the Catchment Management Agency have been established. After completion, a regional water supply entity would be considered for the management of the new bulk distribution infrastructure. Any potable water supply systems that will be served by the bulk distribution system will be the responsibility of the relevant municipalities.

A high-level Project Steering Committee has been established by the DWS, and includes the Limpopo Provincial Government, Mopani District Municipality, local municipalities, traditional authorities, sectors such as conservation, agriculture and industry to steer the post feasibility bridging studies.

Cooperative governance

Investigating and implementing such a major infrastructure project to improve water management in the area is likely to give rise to many development opportunities, lead to change in socioeconomic circumstances, cause changes in land use and have other beneficial effects.

Numerous other government authorities thus need to be consulted and participate so to accommodate these proposed developments in their planning and future activities. This includes the local authorities who will be required to include these proposals in their Integrated Development Plans (IDPs) in order to ensure access to potable water for their communities.

Together with the DWS, they will assist in ensuring that all the projects and developments resulting from this initiative are sustainable, and that as many people as possible benefit from infrastructure development now being investigated.

International liaison

The DWS will continue to liaise with the country’s neighbours during the planning and implementation of the GLeWaP in line with international protocols and agreements.

Dam at Nwamitwa site

The main component of the proposed project comprises a new major storage dam at a site in the Groot Letaba River referred to as the Nwamitwa site, downstream of the confluence of the Nwanedzi River. The proposed dam wall could be 36m high and comprise a concrete structure in the river section accommodating a spillway and outlet works, with earth embankments on both flanks. With a storage capacity of 144 million m³ it would increase the system yield by about 47 million m³ per year. (By comparison, the capacity of Tzaneen Dam is 157,5 million m³).

The final size of the dam will be determined in a series of technical and financial investigations, informed by the findings of the EIA. The dam will be designed to enable the requirements of the Reserve in the Groot Letaba River, particularly in the river reach downstream of the dam.

  • Local road alignments

The R529 and other important roads in the area will have to be re-aligned to accommodate the dam. Local alignments will be determined in consultation with landowners and the provincial road authorities and will take cognisance of the impacts investigated during the EIA.

Raising of the Tzaneen Dam wall

It was also proposed to increase the capacity of Tzaneen Dam to approximately 203 million m³ by raising the dam wall. This could increase the firm yield of the dam by about 6% from 60 million m³/a to 64 million m³/a, but more importantly, the dam could then be operated so as to minimize the frequency and intensity of restrictions on water allocations for the irrigation of permanent fruit orchards.

Other infrastructure

Bulk water supply infrastructure including pipelines, a water treatment plant, various pump stations and reservoirs will be investigated.

The various reservoirs will be located so that local authorities will be able to obtain water for reticulation to individual users. All infrastructure will be fenced off with security fencing. Final sizing is still to be completed but pump stations and reservoirs could each occupy an area of about half a football field.

Electricity requirements for the project will be assessed separately by Eskom.


Construction activities will take approximately five years, with several construction teams working concurrently in different areas at the proposed dam site and along the pipeline routes. Residential accommodation for construction staff will be established in the vicinity of the proposed dam or in established towns. Housing, internal roads, water and electricity supply, waste water treatment, solid waste disposal, emergency facilities and recreational amenities will be provided.

Funding of the GLeWaP

The construction cost of the infrastructure components of the project is estimated to be in excess of R1 500 million. Funding sources are likely to include a private sector and a public sector component funded by the National Treasury.

Construction sites will include offices, internal roads, water and electricity supply, waste water treatment, solid waste disposal, emergency facilities, areas for the handling of hazardous substances, workshops, washbays, areas for the safe storage of explosives, and communication infrastructure.

The sites will also include facilities for the bulk storage and dispensing of fuel for construction vehicles and working areas for stockpiling construction materials and concrete batching and bitumen plants.

  • Borrow pits

Running concurrently with the EIA investigations is the process to obtain authorisation from the Department of Minerals and Energy (DME), in terms of the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act (Act 28 of 2002), to use various quarry and borrow pits to provide gravel and sand for construction.

Location of the borrow pits will be determined during the study and local landowners are invited to contribute information about the occurrence of material suitable for this purpose.


The target is to commence with the supply of water from the new dam by 2012, with full yield by around 2013, should environmental authorisation be obtained. For this to be achieved construction of some of the infrastructure must start in late 2009. The possibility of starting to abstract water from the dam during the filling period is also being considered.


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