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Beervlei Dam, the dam that was built to be empty

Beervleidam near Willowmore

Motorists traveling along the N9 from the interior via Graaff Reinet and Aberdeen towards Willowmore would notice a huge empty dam on the right. It’s not empty because of drought though. The Beervlei Dam is supposed to be empty. The dam was completed in 1957 as a flood control dam to help protect areas downstream on the Groot River when good rains do happen. The Karoo sediments in the area contain a lot of salts and it has been found that lengthy storage of water results in high water salinity, so the dam doesn’t supply any town with water. Any flood water would be used as quickly as possible by the downstream irrigators and the reservoir is kept empty for extended periods.

Beervleidam near Willowmore

The dam’s wall is 31 meters high and it has a capacity of 85,800,000 cubic meters with a surface area of over 23 square kilometers. After extensive rains in the Karoo in December 2021 and January 2022, the dam had water for the first time in 20 years, causing many to travel long distances to see this unique occurrence. Unique for a dam designed to operate at a 0% capacity.

Beervleidam near Willowmore.

In November and December 2021 the Karoo region had very high rainfall and the dam filled up with water for the first time in apparently over a decade. Holidaymakers driving down to the coast on the N9 were amazed to see a dam with water in it and many people drove hundreds of kilometers just to see the phenomenon.