This drought is turning out to be a very bad sport
Some dams have been forced to ban power boating, sailing, kitesurfing, kayaking, skiing and swimming
Western Cape dam levels are so low that several inland watersports clubs have banned boating for fear of members’ safety.
And clubhouses once nestled cosily next to the water’s edge have been left high and dry, marooned by sand and forced to cancel sports events and school functions.
The province’s worst recorded drought is increasingly affecting the economy of small inland towns where dams are a drawcard for campers and sports enthusiasts.Worcester Yacht Club on the Brandvlei Dam on Thursday confirmed a total ban on water activities including power boating, sailing, kitesurfing, kayaking and swimming. “You have to walk about 100m just to get to the water (from the clubhouse),” said manager Errol Eyberg.
“We had depths of just 1.4m in front of the clubhouse. If you come off a ski and hit your head against a bank you can be killed,” Eyberg said, adding that the dam was only about 5% full.
In a Facebook post, the club said most of the bottom of the dam consists of uneven rock embankments. “Additionally there is mud around the dam which may extend to a depth of half a metre and may be dangerous to members and animals getting stuck,” it said.Lise Wheeler from Theewater Sports Club said there had been a marked decrease in visitors and campers since the decline of the massive Theewaterskloof dam – the biggest in the province. Sailing is still permitted, but not power boating. “We are severely affected by low water. There are far fewer members and visitors – it has definitely taken its toll,” Wheeler said.
“Horrific sand storms” surging across the exposed dam floor are an additional problem, she said. The dam is currently 11% full.
One unexpected benefit is a safe, shallow environment for learner sailors, Wheeler said.
Erwin Weideman from the Department of Water and Sanitation said boating bans were in place at most large Western Cape dams due to safety concerns. “The bad thing about it is that people don’t go to the dams any more and the clubs are losing a lot of income. If it goes on too long then they will have to start thinking of closing down,” Weideman said.
Boats are no longer able to launch at some dams, such as the Misverstand Dam outside Moorreesburg, because the water has receded well below the slipway. Boating has also been banned at the Clanwilliam Dam, Weideman said.
Recent rainfall in the Western Cape has done little to relieve the situation, he said: “Even if you get 10mm rainfall, in a dam the size of Brandvlei that might lift the water level by a millimetre – nothing that we can see.
“We pray and believe that we will get some good rains this winter,” Weideman said.