South Africa: Lesotho Highlands Water Project in numbers

Lesotho Highlands Water Project2986m m³ of water a year are transferred from the Lesotho mountains’ Katse and Mohale dams to South Africa’s Vaal River system through the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, phase 1, completed in 2004.

151m m³ more water will be transferred after phase 2 is completed in 2020. Further development of phase 2 could achieve an extra 286m m³ by 2035.

1000MW of hydropower plus the 165m-high Polihali Dam, with a capacity of 2,2bn m³ , and a 38km water transfer tunnel are included in phase 2.

R7,8bn is the projected cost of the water aspects of the project, including R2,4bn for the dam. The cost will be borne by South Africa.

R7,6bn will be the cost to the government of Lesotho for the hydropower project.

2m m³ /s is Lesotho’s total water consumption; the total availability of water is 150m m³ /s.

4 phases in total will cost an estimated US$8bn and will comprise five dams and 200km of tunnels.

$6m or more in bribes was taken by former Lesotho Highlands Development Agency CEO Masupha Sole during phase 1.

1986 was when the first treaty between the two countries for the transfer of water was signed.

20000 or more people will have to be resettled or will lose their grazing lands from the building of Polihali Dam.

Source: Financial Mail (Lise Pretorius)

The Lesotho Highlands Water Project has been of great importance in mitigating, to some extent, South Africa’s water crisis as well as energy shortfalls. However, it only assists the Gauteng Province of South Africa and in the long term, South Africans need to embrace water conservation in all aspects of life.  The South African taxpayer will ultimately bear the cost of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project and water tariffs will rise steeply in the coming years.  Save money and water by installing rain water tanks and grey water recycling systems at home and at work.

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