Many South Africans have fond memories of visiting their local dam for a weekend of water sports, swimming, or picnics alongside the water. Not only are dams a source of enjoyment for communities, but they are also critical towards supplying drinking water to residential areas or for industrial purposes. From the history of dams to why concrete is the best dam material to the notable concrete dams located around South Africa, we explore everything you need to know about concrete dams. B&S Commercial Power is a supplier of small portable concrete mixers suited to commercial or DIY concrete projects.
A Brief History of Dams:
Dams have been pivotal to communities across the world for centuries. A dam, which is a man-made structure, can be created for water storage, water diversion to direct water to drier areas, or water detention to hold water temporarily to prevent flooding. You can also find a cofferdam, which is a temporary dam that is erected while the main dam is being constructed.
The earliest dam dates back to 3000 BC and is located in what was previously called Mesopotamia, a historical area of Western Asia which now is where modern-day Iraq, northeast Syria, southeast Turkey, western Iran, and northern Kuwait is located. This historical dam was made from a cementitious material that was combined with masonry blocks to capture water from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
Since the initial Mesopotamia dam, many dams were created across the world using different materials and for various purposes. The Romans during the Roman empire built numerous dams across their conquered territories in the earlier centuries. The Lake Homs Dam, locally called the Qattinah Dam, is a Roman-built dam in Syria that dates back to 1300 AD and is still operational today. In Asia, Japan, and India there are also notable contributions to historical dam construction, with some of the dams still standing today.
Initially, dams were built on a small scale. It was during the 1800s that dam engineering technology advanced to initiate the construction of large-scale dams. The development of larger-scale dams was pushed by the increasing need for water supply as a result of the Industrial Revolution. The ability to create these large-scale dams stemmed from increased access to machinery, building materials, and extensive advancements in dam engineering. During this time was when concrete dams become the most widely constructed across the world.
For roughly 5000 years, civilisations have been constructing dams, but the most significant dam constructions have occurred in the last 100 years. Today you will find over 57 000 functional dams located all over the world. The innovations and advancements in dam engineering technology have resulted in the strong and reliable dams that we benefit from today.
Why Concrete is the Best For Dams:
Dams can be constructed out of a wide variety of materials, ranging from concrete to masonry to steel to soil to timber. Most commonly, dams are constructed out of concrete that has been reinforced. We have highlighted the benefits of concrete to demonstrate why you will most commonly find concrete dams across the world today.
Strength: Large-scale dams need to withstand constant weight and pressure from the reservoir of water, which means the strength of the dam material is critical towards securing the body of water and for safety. Concrete has immense tensile strength, ensuring that it is a durable material for dam construction.
Water Resistance: Alongside strength, a dam wall cannot deteriorate as a result of water exposure. Concrete is durable against water and will not corrode, thus making it an excellent material choice for dam construction.
Cost: Large-scale dams require enormous quantities of materials, labour, and machinery, which all transpires into dams being an exceptionally expensive project. Why concrete is a commonly used material for dams is due to the low cost of cement and aggregates. Cement and aggregates are easily accessed materials all over the world, ensuring that it is readily available at a low cost no matter the location of the dam.
Desired Shape: The design of the dam wall depends on the purpose of the dam and the topography of the desired site for the dam. Because the design of dam walls depends heavily on the location, the dam material needs to be able to be crafted in the best-suited dam wall shape. Concrete is a highly malleable material whilst in its liquid state, allowing for any desired dam wall to be created.
Concrete Dam Shapes:
Concrete dams come in a variety of wall shapes for different purposes and are based on the physical factors of the site. We have highlighted the three most common concrete dam shapes that you will find in South Africa and across the world.
Gravity Dam: A gravity dam has a solid concrete dam wall that uses the weight of the wall and the resistance against the solid foundation to hold back the pressure of the water. Gravity dam walls are triangular with a wide base that slants upwards towards the apex of the dam wall. Because of the extreme weight of gravity dams, they need to be constructed on solid stone foundations.
Arch Dam: An arch dam is a solid concrete dam wall with a curved plan towards the top of the wall. The water pressure from the water pushes against the curvature of the dam wall, which slightly straightens the wall and pushes it further into the foundation, thus providing the wall with strength. The first arch dams were designed by early Romans, making them a historical dam design. Arch dams are thinner than gravity dams and require fewer materials and labour to construct these dams, and are therefore an economical dam choice. You will most likely find arch dams in narrow gorges.
Buttress Dam: A buttress dam, also called a hollow dam, is a curved or straight concrete dam wall with supporting reinforced concrete buttresses separated at equal intervals on the downstream side of the dam. The buttress supports the dam wall by providing strong resistance against the pressure of the water. Buttress dams can be built on soil foundations. Buttress dams were also originally crafted by Romans, but are becoming a less common dam choice in modern times. You will most likely find buttress dams in wide valleys.
Concrete Dams in South Africa:
The popularity of concrete dams can be demonstrated by the number of concrete dams found across South Africa. If you want to witness the advancements of dam engineering, the incredible variation in dam wall shapes, or simply spend a weekend splashing around in the man-made achievement, you can find a concrete dam in numerous locations around South Africa. We have selected our top three concrete dams found in South Africa.
Gariep Dam: The Gariep Dam, located on the border of the Free State and the Eastern Cape, is the largest concrete dam in South Africa. The 88m high Gariep Dam has a unique dam design which is a hybrid between a gravity and arch dam. The hybrid design depended on the steep, wide gorge of the site.
Vanderkloof Dam: The Vanderkloof Dam, located downstream from the Gariep Dam, is the second-largest dam in South Africa. The Vanderkloof Dam has the highest dam wall in South Africa, reaching a towering 108m in height. The Vanderkloof Dam is a concrete arch dam that holds up to 3,236 million cubic metres of water fed from the Orange River and other neighbouring rivers.
The Vaal Dam: The Vaal Dam, which is situated on the border of the Free State and Gauteng, is a concrete gravity dam. The Vaal Dam is South Africa’s fourth-largest dam. Since construction in 1938, the dam wall has been risen twice to accommodate for flooding from the strong-flowing Vaal River. The Vaal Dam attracts many fishermen and holiday-makers.
Concrete Mixers from B&S Commercial Power:
B&S Commercial Power is a proud supplier of Baumax concrete mixers. When it comes to the concrete mixers that we supply, we ensure that you have access to concrete mixers of the highest quality, the best performance, and efficient mixing speeds. We have highlighted our top reasons for why we have selected Baumax concrete mixers to be available at B&S Commercial Power.
Performance: The high performance of a Baumax concrete mixer ensures that homogenously mixed concrete in an excellent time frame is produced to allow your concrete project to be a success. No matter your concrete project, the performance of Baumax concrete mixers will save you time, effort, and energy on creating perfectly mixed concrete.
Range of Drum Sizes: The Baumax concrete mixers are available in a range of drum sizes. We have the Baumax BS360L concrete mixer, the Baumax 400L concrete mixer, and the Baumax BS500L concrete mixer available so that you can find the drum size you need. This ensures that whether you need a concrete mixer for DIY projects around the house or commercial purposes, you can find the best-suited concrete mixer drum size at B&S Commercial Power.
Operator Safety: Baumax has designed its concrete mixers around operator safety. Each Baumax concrete mixer comes with a ring gear cover and an enclosed engine cabin to reduce any injuries or accidents whilst using the concrete mixer. We prioritise your safety whilst using any power tool, which is why this is one of the important reasons why we supply Baumax concrete mixers.
Portable: The Baumax concrete mixers come with wheels for easy portability. This ensures that no matter where you need perfectly mixed concrete on your project site or around your home, you can easily manoeuvre your concrete mixer to the ideal location.
Affordable: You get to enjoy the high-quality performance of Baumax concrete mixers at an affordable rate at B&S Commercial Power. The range of Baumax concrete mixers ensures that there is a concrete mixer suited to your budget.
About B&S Commercial Power:
You will find any power tool you need at B&S Commercial Power. We import and manufacture a range of high-performance power tools to ensure that we stock a comprehensive range suited to your power tool requirements. From maintaining your garden to pouring a concrete slab to having a generator for during Load Shedding, you can find the exact power tool to get your job done at B&S Commercial Power.
We can deliver your purchased power tools to anywhere in South Africa and to Southern African countries, including Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia, and elsewhere. To organise a power tool delivery, simply tell us your desired drop-off location and we will organise the rest. Your power tools will be delivered by our reliable delivery service within a satisfactory time.
B&S Commercial Power provides a range of concrete mixers that will help you get your commercial or residential concrete project done.