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Make sure your water use complies with the limits of the law

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Water will be one of the major challenges to be faced by South Africans in the future. The National Water Act, Act 36 of 1998, determines that water in South Africa is a national resource and belongs to no one person or institution.

Consequently you are only allowed to use water, even on your own property, on the grounds of a concession. Where water services are provided by municipalities or other service providers, they are granted the concession, but where water is used directly by a person or land owner, it is the responsibility of the person or land owner to obtain such a concession.

Article 21 of the Act defines eleven forms of water consumption which has to do with the taking, storing, spilling, polluting, interfering and recreational use of water. This means that any pumping or diverting of water from dams, rivers and boreholes, the building of dams and reservoirs, the discharge of waste water, or the interference with rivers and wetlands, are regarded as water use.

Article 22 provides for the methods of obtaining concessions:

Water use in terms of Schedule 1:

   This means use for reasonable domestic purposes as long it is not part of any commercial activity. Such use is legal and no further application is required.

Continuation of Existing Legal Water Use: This means that water may be used legally if it had been used legally two years before the promulgation of the Water Act. This includes concessions in terms of previous legislation, Water Court grants, scheduling in schemes and under irrigation boards, and legal registered servitudes.

Water use in terms of General Concession: The act provides for the drawing-off, storing, spilling and other uses of certain volumes of water and under certain circumstances in specific catchment areas. To determine this, the use for the specific area has to be verified and, should a General Concession be applicable, it should be registered.

• Should it not be possible to authorise it in terms of the above methods, application should be made for a water licence. This entails investigating the type of use, the area and the legal use by other parties.

The registration campaign introduced in 1999 resulted in the issuing of registration certificates in terms of which water use was recognised whether the use had been legal, illegal, under- or over-registered. Such a certificate does not legalise water use until such time as the legality and extent of the uses have been confirmed.

If you need assistance or information regarding your water use, please refer to AquaEco.

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