The low annual average rainfall in South Africa becomes particularly apparent during periods of drought. We have become more aware of this in the recent months of water shortages and restrictions. The National Water Act, 1998 (Act 36 of 1998) aims to ensure that the water in South Africa is protected, used, controlled, managed, conserved and developed sustainably and equitably for the benefit of all persons in South Africa. Water Use Licences and General Authorisations have been implemented to achieve the National Water Act aim. Thus, Water Use Licences and General Authorisations are applicable to all persons and sectors within South Africa.


The National Water Act and subsequent licence requirements are applicable to all persons in South Africa. To make this more understandable and better managed, the National Water Act specifies 11 water uses, in Section 21, that require licencing. This licencing can be achieved through a Water Use Licence or General Authorisation. In addition, persons may be exempted or deemed a lawful user of water in these categories. Any person that engages in any of the 11 water uses needs to be authorised to do so. Of the 11 water uses, nine are very specific types of water uses (e.g. taking water from a water resource or storing water). However, two water uses referred to as Section 21(c) and (I) require greater attention. These two water uses are designed to prevent pollution or changes in the water resource that could render the water resource harmful or unfit for its’ purpose.

Whether you are a private homeowner or a developer that is planning on any development near to a water resource, you may be required to obtain authorisation. If you are planning on extracting water, storing water, reducing the flow of a water resource, discharging or disposing of waste or water into a water resource or from underground, or if you are planning on using water for recreational purposes, you may be required to obtain authorisation prior to engaging with the task.


  1. Consult with you regional Department of Water and Sanitation office to determine whether they consider your planned activity to require authorisation. The Department will provide a list of required information and specialist studies if the activity requires a licence.
  2. If you are required to apply, then download the appropriate forms and submit your intent to apply for a licence.
  3. The Department of Water and Sanitation may require a site inspection.
  4. Thereafter, the required information must be gathered and the application compiled.
  5. Submit the application.
  6. If the submitted application is accepted (for completion of documents), the application will then be assessed and recommendations provided.
  7. The decision (successfully or unsuccessful) will be provided.
  8. There is an opportunity if the application is unsuccessful to appeal.

For more information or to book a consultation with Gondwana Environment Solutions, contact us today.