Lesotho hydro project moves ahead to boost water supply to South Africa

Out-Law News | 01 Jul 2014 | 4:48 pm | 1 min. read

The procurement process is set to start for the second phase of a major infrastructure project that will generate hydroelectric power for Lesotho and increase supplies of water to South Africa.

The Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) said (3-page / 416 KB PDF) the 17 billion rand (ZAR) second phase of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, a joint initiative by the two countries, is due for completion by 2023.

Supplies of water transferred from Lesotho’s Senqu river area to South Africa’s Gauteng region will be increased from the current 780 million cubic metres annually by a further 465 million cubic metres.

According to South Africa’s official government news agency, LHDA’s phase two executive manager Mark Matchett briefed stakeholders on the progress of the project on 23 June. Matchett said the procurement process will run “for a fairly intensive six- to nine-month period”. “Towards the middle to the end of next year, we hope to be in a position to start procuring contracts for the construction works.”

Matchett said dam and tunnel designs are expected to start during the first or second quarter of 2015, while construction is expected to start during the third or fourth quarter of 2015. Matchett said. “If all goes well… we are looking at completion by the year 2023.”

Environmental and related studies for the project are already under way and are expected to be completed by the end of November this year, Matchett said. A township will be established to accommodate some 2,500 workers expected in the area at the height of the project.

The second phase also involves “a significant investment into improving road infrastructure and associated environment and social programmes which will benefit the communities in the project area”, LHDA said.

The project is based on a 1986 treaty signed by the governments of Lesotho and South Africa. South Africa is bearing costs related to the water transfer while Lesotho bears costs related to pumped storage in addition to social and environmental costs.

The Lesotho Highlands Water Commission, comprising three delegates from each country, is responsible for implementing the four-phase project. The first phase was completed in 2003.

LHDA said the project is “the largest and most ambitious long-term water transfer scheme of its kind on the continent and has done much to develop the region’s water supply”.