Visitors to dams should not ignore safety

Marcus MonyakeniPhoto: Supplied
Marcus MonyakeniPhoto: Supplied

Summer is a time for picnics and sunbathing, with visits to water sites such as dams.

This is a time when many fatalities are reported near or at dams, due to non-compliance with dam safety rules and regulations.

Before going to the dam, it is advisable to check daily or weekly reports on dam levels, released by the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) as a guiding tool for safety.

Getting too close to dams can be dangerous. Calm water can quickly, and without warning, become a surge of fast-moving water.

This fast-moving water creates strong undercurrents that cannot always be seen from the surface and can drown even the strongest swimmer.

Strong currents and undercurrents can cause anyone who enters the water near a dam to be washed downstream, through the structure; or become pinned against the structure, unable to escape, resulting in drowning or serious or fatal injury.

The DWS normally place signs, fences and safety booms simply to warn people of dam hazards that must be observed at all times when entering dam sites.

At overflow spillways, it can be difficult to see the vertical drop that may occur at the outflow of a dam.

When water is released through a dam’s floodgates (which is sometimes done daily), water levels and flow in rivers can change quickly.

Increased water flow can cause normally dry areas to pool water, which could result in a person being stranded without an escape route, or swept into strong currents.

If water levels begin to change near a dam, back away immediately.

Never stand, fish, or anchor your boat below a dam. Water levels change quickly and can swamp your boat or pull you into an undertow.

Avoid sunbathing, having picnics or camping in an area which may become flooded due to dam operations.

Stay off dam structures unless an area is clearly marked for public travel.

Visitors should stay clear of operational equipment or unauthorised use that could pose a public safety risk.

Regardless of their size, type or intended use, all dams present certain hazards to those who work or play near them.

Also remember that, although used to manufacture alcohol, water does not mix with alcohol.

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