Every time that we enter Franschhoek via Stellenbosch, a large mound/structure off in the distance on the right hand side catches my eye, I mutter to Chantelle, “I wonder what that is?”, and then continue to drive on into main road of this wine-soaked, tourist friendly little town and straight away forget all about it.
Which is silly really, because if I had just opened up Google and looked at a map then I would very much have known that what I’m seeing is a dam wall.
For its water needs, Cape Town relies heavily on the Western Cape Water Supply System, which is basically a big inter-linked network of six dams, their associated pipelines, tunnels and distribution networks – with the six dams in question being the Theewaterskloof Dam, Wemmershoek Dam, Steenbras Dams, Voëlvlei Dam and finally the Berg River Dam (i.e. the one that was right in front of me the whole time!).
As you can see from the photo above, the reason that the Berg River Dam isn’t all that apparent from the road (basically the reason I’m using to excuse my ignorance of the dam in the first place) is because of the clever decision to plant indigenous flora on the downstream face of the dam wall – the express purpose being to try and get the dam and associated structures to blend in with the surrounding landscape and thus be a little more environmentally friendly.
As for the award winning dam build itself, well, from all accounts this was a very successful project (basically completed on time and within budget – something not often associated with government run projects of this scale).
With an exhaustive planning and consultation period that stretched from 1989 to 2002, construction began in 2004 and by July 2007 the dam started storing water – with it filling up a year later thanks to a particularly good spell of rainfall. The Berg River Dam was officially opened in 2009.
The dam itself is a concrete-faced rockfill dam (a type of embankment dam) which is 68 metres high and 929 metres long, with a gross storage capacity is 130 million cubic metres. The surface area of the reservoir is around 488 hectares.
That said, given our current drought conditions the current water level of the Berg River Dam isn’t quite where it normally would be…
Unsurprisingly, the surrounding area itself is actually quite popular with local joggers, hikers and mountain bikers.
So, just in case that somehow, like me, you haven’t actually spotted it before, here’s a handy map: