July 21, 2024

Lower Sundays River Water User Association

The seeds of the Lower Sundays River Water User Association were sown as far back as 1883 when James Somers Kirkwood established the Sundays River Land and Irrigation Company in the Eastern Cape.

Although he did not realise his dream of a continuous water supply for the valley farmers, it would eventually come to fruition more than three decades later.

Because the upper reaches of the river were in the water-scarce Karoo, an area also prone to thunderstorm activity, the government decided that a catchment dam was needed.

In 1917, the Sundays River Irrigation Board was founded to oversee the construction of the Darlington Dam (then Lake Mentz) as the area’s main supply dam.

The board’s role was to ensure the continuous and scheduled delivery of water to farmers or irrigators in the valley.

In the 1970s, the Gariep Dam (formerly the Verwoerd Dam) was built on the Orange River, allowing the release of water into the Darlington Dam via a network of rivers, weirs, tunnels and canals.

Today, some 17 000 hectares are scheduled for water supply from the scheme, with over a thousand delivery points. Irrigators are grouped together in zones, with a predetermined stream size supplying each zone. In line with the National Water Act, the irrigation board was required to transform into a water user association, which commenced operations in 2005.