Original Research

Water contestations in the Little Karoo: Liaisons between the Calitzdorp irrigation board and the Calitzdorp (Kannaland) Municipality, 1912- 2013

Wessel Visser
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa | Vol 11, No 3 | a62 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/td.v11i3.62 | © 2015 Wessel Visser | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 25 February 2016 | Published: 31 December 2015

About the author(s)

Wessel Visser, Department of History, University of Stellenbosch. Em, South Africa

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Although a good agricultural-yielding region when adequate rainfall is available the Little Karoo is plagued by regular, recurring and sometimes devastating droughts. In a rural town like Calitzdorp, where the same water resources are being shared by agricultural and domestic users, acute shortages over time have contributed to a history of water disputes and contestations between the Calitzdorp Irrigation Board (CIB) and the local municipality. The study focuses on the period between 1912, when the Calitzdorp Irrigation Board was established, and the beginning of the 21st century. Drought conditions and water shortages, also due to further municipal needs, were main determinants in relations between the CIB and the municipality between the 1950s and the early 1990s. Although this relationship had been abrasive at times up to 1994, issues regarding municipal water allocation and usage and payment of water tariffs had usually been settled in a practical way and to the mutual satisfaction of all stakeholders. The interests of the all-white CIB and town council were intertwined in a community whose existence depended on an agricultural economy supported predominantly by irrigation. However, when new district municipalities were created in 1998 the Calitzdorp Municipality was dissolved after 88 years and all executive and administrative municipal powers shifted to the neighbouring town of Ladismith. As a result of political instability, mismanagement and inefficient administration occurred. The new Kannaland Municipality not only demanded more water from the CIB, but also started paying its water bills in an erratic manner to the board. This situation led to the souring of relations between the two entities.


Water contestations; droughts; Calitzdorp Irrigation Board; Nelsriver Dam; Kannaland District Municipality


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