Major contracts have now been awarded for the construction of Phase II of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) which signals the start of the final lap of the water transfer infrastructure construction.
The Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) made the announcement on Monday, that the Polihali Dam and Polihali Transfer Tunnel construction contracts are concluded.
The Polihali Dam will be a concrete-faced rockfill dam, which will create a reservoir on the Senqu and Khubelu rivers.
According to the Department of Water and Sanitation, the infrastructure also includes a spillway, a compensation outlet structure, and a mini-hydropower station.
The Polihali Transfer Tunnel will transfer water by gravity from the Polihali reservoir to the Katse reservoir, the centrepiece of the LHWP. From Katse, water will move through various places, including the Ash River outfall, outside Clarens in the Free State, on its way to Gauteng.
Department spokesperson, Sputnik Ratau, said the project will see an increase in the annual water supply rate, which will be a welcome addition to meeting South Africa’s rising water needs.
“On completion, the Polihali Dam will add approximately 2 325 million cubic metres in storage capacity to the LHWP Phase II, which will increase the project’s current annual supply rate capacity from 780 to 1 270 million cubic metres,” Ratau said.
The additional flow of water from Polihali will simultaneously increase power generation within Lesotho, which is another step towards meeting the electricity needs of Basotho, thus reducing dependence on imported power supply.
Ratau emphasized that the awarding of contracts comes as the department continues work towards ensuring adequate water infrastructure.
“The awarding of the contracts to start with Phase 2 of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project comes at an opportune time when the department is getting all its ducks in a row to ensure adequate infrastructure to meet the current and future demand for water.
“The increasing population, coupled with rapid urbanization, continuing economic activity, and impact of climate change, put a strain on water infrastructure. Therefore, the sooner we complete Phase 2 of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, the better,” he stated.