Heavy rains across the country over the past few weeks have seen the dam exceed 100% capacity. As of Wednesday morning, the dam was already at 103.5% capacity.
The dam was built to allow for least 120% water capacity before it could overflow.
Leonardo Manus, the deputy-director general for National Water Resource Infrastructure, said prior to the sluice gates being opened on Thursday, they were previously opened in 2017, 2015 and 2021.
“In 2017, the entire volume of water came through the sluice gates,” he said
Manus said in terms of the department’s plans for releasing water, they communicated with other neighbouring streams to expect high volumes of water. The Vaal Dam feeds into dams in Northern Cape, the Orange River and the Grootdraai Dam in Mpumalanga.
The department said on Thursday that a decision to open at least three sluices was taken due to the weather system developing over the Mozambican Channel, which is expected to bring more rain to the upper Vaal system.
“This is being done in order to protect the infrastructure and make sure that there is sufficient leeway for incoming water and that everything is moving according to plan,” said spokesperson Sputnik Ratau.
Along with the now-opened sluices and recent heavy rains caused by Tropical Cyclone Eloise, neighbouring dams and harbours have been significantly impacted.
Kathy Meten, owner of the Meten Marina at Deneysville in the Free State, said even though the harbour was filled with water from the recent heavy rains and from the Vaal Dam, it was better than not having enough water for their boats.
“At the end of November, the harbour was totally empty and the walls around the harbour are 12m high, and now the water that we have today is nearly there which has made a huge difference. For over two years, we haven’t been able to use the harbour as much. Most of the big boats have been out of the water due to not having enough water to store them,” she said.
Meten added that the marina was back to normal and the industry had been picking up slowly due to more people using their boats.
Richard Angus, a sailor who has been sailing at the marina for over two years, said he was happy that the dam levels were at their optimum.
“I come to the harbour twice a month. The best thing about such a situation is that the water will remain full for sailing for roughly two years.”
“When the dam levels were low, sailing was difficult because every time we’d come we would have to get the motor of the boat out because it was not safe for boats to be out on the dam unsupervised, and put it back in when we came again, and there was also a risk of dropping it because they [motors] are heavy.”