Department calls for registration of water use

by Carien Kruger

The Department of Water and Sanitation is asking certain water users to register or update their water-use information. 

The Department’s request excludes those who receive water from a local authority, water board, irrigation board or another bulk water supplier. 

According to a press release, the registration of water use is applicable to water-use licenses and general authorisations for those who are discharging waste or water that contains waste in terms of section 21 of the National Water Act (Act 36 of 1998).

The updating of water users’ contact information is applicable to users with operations such as irrigation, water supply to livestock, operations that reduce stream flow, industrial use that includes mining, and power generation. 

Khutso Mabela, the director of the Department’s national register of water use, says the aim of registering water users is to ensure that water is used optimally and wisely. By obtaining information in this way, the Department can compare the water usage to how much water is available. 

“In some areas we will then find that there is still extra water that can be made available for use. In other areas we will find that there is already more water being used than the water resources can provide without considerable damage to the aquatic ecosystems.”

Khutso says there is no registration fee but a fee will be charged for late registration by users who have purchased properties but never registered their water use.

Compulsory licensing is the next step

Janse Rabie, Agri SA’s legal and policy executive, says the organisation has known for a long time that the Department would be sending out a request like this. 

It forms part of a bigger process regarding the verification and validation of existing water use, which has been dragging on for years. 

Janse says the overdue registration of water use, or users that were supposed to register their water use long ago, will probably slow down the verification and validation process even further. 

“Farmers must furthermore be aware that this process is the precursor to compulsory licensing of water. Although the licensing of new water use has always been mandatory, most farmers practice their water use as continuations of existing legitimate water uses, under section 22 read together with sections 32 and 34 of the National Water Act.

“This entails that where water has continuously been used in a legal manner since the two years before the law came into force in 1998, farmers may continue to do so.”

Farmers do not have to get licensed for this, but they do have to register it. “Registration is different from licensing. Something that was registered had to be verified and validated afterwards.

“Registered existing legal water uses would eventually be converted into licensed water uses from the outset. The registration process had therefore always been the intended means of eventual licensing.” The Department said registration will be the last step before licensing water uses becomes an obligatory requirement. 

“From our side, we will encourage all agricultural water users whose water uses have not been registered to do so now or to make sure it is done and that their details are up to date,” says Janse. For more information and to register or update water use, visit the office of the relevant provincial water department or catchment management agency, or visit the Department’s website here.

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