Background: How it started

Two commercial farmers Truter Lutz and his partner, Jan Louw, made use of the then newly promulgated National Water Act of 1998 to launch a vineyard, Lutow Estate (Pty) Ltd in the Lutzville region of the Western Cape which was to become the most north westerly commercial vineyards in South Africa. The partners had identified an untapped water resource and Sharon Götte spoke to them about how they used the National Water Act to their benefit in one of the first BEE initiatives of late 1990s.

Truter Lutz (a viniculturist and viticulturist) and his partner Jan Louw (a mechanical engineer with experience running large companies, particularly in the mining sector) noticed a piece of land near Lutzville with a potential water source that was unused at the time.

The piece of land, which now forms an integral part of the BEE company Lutouw Estate (Pty) Ltd, was up for sale. “We were both looking for a new opportunity and knew the potential of the area,” says Lutz. “I was renting land and water at the end of a canal that runs from the Olifants River for approximately 70 km, and I was farming successfully with vegetables and grapes. The canal stopped 3km from where the new farm would be. I was also familiar with that particular farm as I had previously done trails with watermelon and pumpkins there.”

Jan was intrigued by the fact that surplus water from the lower Olifants River, which forms one border of the farm, was being wasted. Instead of being used, it was running back into the sea. “We agreed it would be viable to collect that water in the winter and store it for use in autumn and summer,” explains Lutz. “We took an option to buy 400ha of the farm that was only being used for grazing at that time, on condition that we could get the water rights (which we duly did) to collect the water there in the winter rainy season.”

Although the water in the lower Olifants River is saline most of the time, because of the open estuary and its proximity to the sea, it’s possible to pump fresh water directly out of the river, during the raining season when the river is in flood, if it’s done when the tides are at the right stage.  “We decided that we would build a dam and then pump fresh water into it from the river, which would then allow us to access water for irrigation throughout the year,” says Lutz.

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