Due to the fact that Oudtshoorn is a very dry area and therefore water is a scarce resource all the farmers in this district gets water form the Water irrigation Scheme. Depending on how dry it is and when water is needed for irrigation of Lucerne field’s farmers who are all members of the Scheme gets together and decides when to open the dam-gates for irrigation of their lands if there is enough water in the dam for this.
We are part of the Kamanassie Irrigation Scheme and depending on how much water is available will get an irrigation turn at most 4 times a year. The Kamanassie Dam is situated outside De Rust and feeds our and surrounding farms and the canal leads all the way down to Calitzdorp. Many a fist fight has broken out in the past over water between some farmers and this is mainly due to the fact that some farmers “take” more water than they are allowed. The Kamanasie irrigation Scheme has 10 “board members” who are made up of farmers from the different parts of the district that runs along the canal.
They will decide by majority decision when to open the dam-gates for irrigation purposes. There are always a few farmers who do not need water for their lands because their Lucerne is not ready and will complain that the dam-gates must not be opened. The majority decision stands and down come the water. Depending on the size of your farm it is then calculated how much of the available water you are allowed to get. Our farm is 1800 hectares in size. The calculation is then made on how many hours you can divert the water from the canal to your lands before you have to close the gates and let the next farmer get his turn.
We get 19 hours before our turn is over and the gates must be closed. Sometimes a farmer conveniently forgets to close the gates when he is supposed to (especially if his turn ends at say two o’clock in the morning) and then steal the next guy’s water, or a farmer closes the other ones gate before his turn is over so as to start irrigating his land before his turn is supposed to start. That is where the fist fights I mentioned earlier can come about.
We and our neighbours have a good understanding and hence this has not ever happened here in the Welgeluk-area. There has however been court-cases between farmers over water in the past.