National Water Act

National Water Act, Act No. 36 of 1998 ensures that the South Africa’s water resources are protected, used, developed, conserved, managed and controlled to meet the basic human needs of present and future generations. It ensures equitable access to water while protecting aquatic and associated ecosystems and their biological diversity.

National Water Act 
Act No. 36, 1998

"To provide for fundamental reform of the law relating to water resources; to repeal certain laws; and to provide for matter connected therewith."

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The purpose of the Act is:

"to ensure that the national water resources are protected, used, developed, conserved, managed and controlled in ways which take into account amongst other factors-

  • meeting the basic human needs of present and future generations;
  • promoting equitable access to water
  • redressing the results of past racial and gender discrimination;
  • promoting the sufficient, sustainable and beneficial use of water in the public interest;
  • facilitating social and economic development
  • providing for growing demand for water use
  • protecting aquatic and associated ecosystems and their biological diversity;
  • reducing and preventing pollution and degeneration of water resources;
  • meeting international obligations;
  • promoting dam safety;
  • managing floods and droughts;

and for achieving this purpose, to establish sustainable institutions and to ensure that they have appropriate community, racial and gender representation."

Chapters of the National Water Act

Chapter 1: Interpretation and Fundamental Principles Chapter 2: Water Management Strategies
  • Definitions and interpretation
  • Purpose of Act
  • Public trusteeship of nation’s water resources
  • Entitlement to water use
  • National water resource strategy
  • Catchment management strategies
Chapter 3: Protection of Water Resources Chapter 4: Use of Water
  • Classification system for water resources
  • Classification of water resources and resource quality objectives
  • The Reserve
  • Pollution prevention
  • Emergency incidents
  • General principles
  • Considerations, conditions and essential requirements of general authorisations and licences
  • Existing lawful water uses
  • Stream flow reduction activities
  • Controlled activities
  • General authorisations
  • Individual applications for licences
  • Compulsory licences for water use in respect of specific resource
  • Review and renewal of licences, and amendment and substitution of conditions of licences
  • Contravention of or failure to comply with authorisations
Chapter 5: Financial Provisions Chapter 6: General Powers and Duties of Minister and Director-General
  • Water use charges
  • Financial assistance
  • Delegation, directives, expropriation, condonation and additional powers
  • General provisions regarding regulations
  • Powers relating to catchment management agencies
  • Powers of Director-General
Chapter 7: Catchment Management Agencies Chapter 8: Water Use Associations
  • Establishment and powers of catchment management agencies
  • Governing board of catchment management agencies
  • Operations of catchment management agencies
  • Intervention, disestablishment or change of water management areas of catchment management agencies
  • Proposal for establishment of water user association
  • Procedure for establishment of water user association
  • Constitution of water user association
  • Powers of water user association
  • Directives to water user association
  • Winding up affairs of disestablished water user association
  • Transitional provisions for certain existing organisations
Chapter 9: Advisory Committees Chapter 10: International Water Management
  • Establishment of advisory committees
  • Regulations regarding advisory committees
  • Transitional provisions relating to advisory committees
  • Establishment of’ bodies to implement international agreements
  • Governance and functions of bodies
  • Powers of bodies
  • Bodies must manage different functions as separate units
  • Reports on performance of’ functions
  • Investigation of affairs or financial position of bodies
  • Transitional provisions relating to existing bodies
Chapter 11: Government Waterworks Chapter 12: Safety of Dams
  • Acquisition, construction, alteration, repair, operation and control of government waterworks
  • Consultation and environmental impact assessment
  • Financing of government waterworks
  • Water from government waterworks
  • Access to and use of government waterworks for recreational purposes
  • Government waterworks constructed before commencement of Act
  • Disposal of government waterworks
  • Regulations regarding government waterworks
  • Definitions
  • Control measures for dam with safety risk
  • Responsibilities of approved professional persons
  • Registration of dam with safety risk
  • Factors to be considered in declaring dam or category of dams with safety risk
  • Exemptions
  • Regulations regarding dam safety
Chapter 13: Access to and Rights over Land Chapter 14: Monitoring, Assessment and Information
  • Entry and Inspection
  • Servitudes
  • Waterworks and personal servitudes
  • National monitoring systems
  • National information systems of water resources
  • Information on floodlines, floods and droughts
Chapter 15: Appeals and Dispute Resolution Chapter 16: Offences and Remedies
  • Establishment of Water Tribunal
  • Operation of Water Tribunal
  • Appeals to Water Tribunal
  • Appeals from decisions of Water Tribunal
  • Mediation
  • Offences
  • Enquiry in respect of compensation for harm, loss or damage suffered
  • Award of damages
  • Offences in relation to employer and employee relationships
  • Interdict or other orderly High Court
Chapter 17: General and Transitional Provisions
  • Liability
  • Powers and Authorisations

Amendments and Authorisations

Amendment of Section 32 of the National Water Act
08 October 1999
Authorisation for Water Use
Notice 509 of 2016
"To amend the National Water Act, 1998 so as to effect textual improvements; and to change the procedure for the appointment of members of the Water Tribunal; and to provide for matters connected therewith." "This General Authorisation replaces the need for a water user to apply for a licence in terms of the National Water Act (Act 36 of 1998) ( "the Act ") provided that the water use is within the limits and conditions of this General Authorisation."
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