Naute Dam Celebrates 50th Anniversary

12 Sep 2022

"On 9 September the Naute Dam near Keetmanshoop will be officially opened by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Water Affairs, J. P. Kriel. The Mayor of Keetmanshoop, W. K. Steyn, will on this occasion commission the filtration plant and the pumping station which will convey the water to Keetmanshoop." This is how the announcement reads in the Allgemeine Zeitung in 1972 (see series "50 years ago" in the online edition of AZ).

Thus, the Naute Dam south of Keetmanshoop in southern Namibia officially celebrates its 50th anniversary. First and foremost, it serves as a water supply.

Lake Islands Naute Dam
Paradise for water birds: the Naute Dam.
Photo (May 2015): Sven-Eric Stender

"The inauguration of the Naute Dam was a celebration of joy for Keetmanshoop and, beyond that, for the entire south of South West Africa," the AZ quotes the then municipal secretary of Keetmanshoop, I. A. McDonald. "Keetmanshoop [...] had suffered from water shortages during the past years. Now the water supply has been put on a secure basis."

Second largest dam until 2019

The dam, which is about 450 metres long and 37 metres high, was built within two years (see Wikipedia). It closes a narrow valley of the Löwen Rivier (Dry River), a large tributary of the Fish River.

With a reservoir volume of 83.5 million cubic metres, the Naute Dam was the second largest reservoir in Namibia at the time. Significantly smaller than the Hardap Dam near Mariental, built in 1962, with 294.5 million cubic metres (see Wikipedia). When the Neckartal Dam was completed in 2019, with a capacity of 857 million cubic metres, the Naute Reservoir dropped to third place.

Excursion destination and water source for plantations

Dark rocks line its shores and form small islands. The lake attracts not only cormorants and other water birds. The inhabitants of Keetmanshoop, 50 kilometres away, also like to use it as a weekend excursion destination.

The Naute Dam is also a good place for a detour on the way from Keetmanshoop to the Fish River Canyon. When it rains well in the catchment area of the Löwen Rivier, the dam sometimes reaches its maximum capacity.

If the sluices are then opened to release water, the road below the dam is impassable. As happened in January 2022 - see video report by the state broadcaster NBC. There is a second road that runs along the crown of the dam, which is then used instead.

Dam wall date palm plantation Naute Dam Namibia
Dam wall of the Naute Dam with the date palm plantation in the background.
Photo (May 2015): Sven-Eric Stender

The water of the Naute Dam is now also used for agricultural projects. In 1991, the first date palms were planted below the dam. Later, pomegranates, prickly pears and even table grapes were added.

In this way, the reservoir creates valuable jobs. At the end of 2020, the plantation had around 60 permanent employees and up to 600 seasonal harvest helpers. The 2021 harvest was estimated at more than 650 tonnes of grapes and 430 tonnes of dates (see New Era newspaper report).

Most of the fruit is destined for export. Converted into Namibian dollars, this brings in tens of millions of foreign currency. Only about 10 percent of the harvest ends up in the local trade.

Date brandy and prickly pear brandy

A small part of the fruit is also used to distil spirits. The company Naute Kristall Cellar and Distillery produces a date brandy as well as a brandy from dates and prickly pears.

Date palm plantation Naute Dam Namibia
Date palms on the plantation below the dam of the Naute Dam.
Photo (7 February 2011): Anagoria/Wikipedia

NAPPA", a Namibian grappa, is also popular. And the NAM GIN made from devil's claw is excellent in the truest sense of the word. At the World Spirits Competition 2018 in San Francisco, it won the silver medal among 2,200 spirits, according to Naute Kristall. In both cases, however, the harvest comes from areas further north in Namibia.

The Naute Kristall distillery should be spending a few rounds of its produce today. To toast the next 50 years of Naute Dam....

Sve-Eric Stender

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