Based on the EIA, last month the project’s second phase received the go-ahead from the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism. Construction of phase two is expected to start in the second semester next year, while the first phase of the project entailing raising the height of the Flag Boshielo dam wall by 5m to increase its capacity should be completed early next year.

The project will secure water supply for several towns and rural communities in the project area. The De Hoop dam is the key component of the project. Other works include 25km of new road which will replace a section that will be flooded by the dam, including three bridges; nearly 300km of pipeline, as well as a number of pumpstations and balancing reservoirs. It will have a capacity of 320Mm3, with a roller compacted concrete dam wall approximately 80m high at its highest point, with a central overflow, and outlet works to be located on the right bank.

In addition to the dam, three gauging weirs will be built to monitor inflows and outflows of dam. The dam will flood an approximate area of 1690ha. The first water will be stored by September 2009, with first delivery to consumers by 2010. The entire project will be implemented in phases, synchronised with the expected increase in water demand, reaching full capacity in 2017.

Another large project planned for the area is a 1000MW pumped storage system by power utility Eskom, to be constructed near the De Hoop dam. Eskom is currently in discussions around synergies to maximise the benefits of this project for the region.

It is estimated that, by December 2007, the growing water demands of Eskom in the industrial centres of the Mpumalanga province will outstrip the current water supply available to the eastern highveld region.

As a result of this projected water shortage, in November 2004 the Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry Buyelwa Sonjica initiated the emergency Vaal River Eastern Sub-system Augmentation Project (Vresap) to supplement the water requirements of the Eskom power stations until 2030.