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Water Use Licence Application

Water Use Licence Application

Section 21 of the National Water Act (Act 36 of 1998) identifies eleven different water uses that require authorisation from the Department of Water & Sanitation (DWS). These water uses are:

Section 21 (a) Taking water from a water resource;

Section 21 (b) Storing water;

Section 21 (c) Impeding or diverting the flow of water in a watercourse;

Section 21 (d) Engaging in a stream flow reduction activity;

Section 21 (e) Engaging in a controlled activity, such as:

  • · irrigation of any land with waste or water containing waste generated through any industrial activity or by a waterwork,
  • · an activity aimed at the modification of atmospheric precipitation,
  • · a power generation activity which alters the flow regime of a water resource, or
  • · intentional recharging of an aquifer with any waste or water containing waste;

Section 21 (f) Discharging waste or water containing waste into a water resource through a pipe, canal, sewer, sea outfall or other conduit;

Section 21 (g) Disposing of waste in a manner which may detrimentally impact on a water resource;

Section 21 (h) Disposing in any manner of water which contains waste from, or which has been heated in, any industrial or power generation process;

Section 21 (i) Altering the bed, banks, course or characteristics of a watercourse;

Section 21 (j) Removing, discharging or disposing of water found underground if it is necessary for the efficient continuation of an activity or for the safety of people; and

Section 21 (k) Using water for recreational purposes.

Applications for water use authorisations for water use activities may take the form of a Water Use License (WULA) or a General Authorization (GA), depending on the nature of the proposed water use and the likely impact the water use will have on water resources. All application processes are undertaken in alignment with the National Water Act (Act 36 of 1998) ‘Regulations regarding the Procedural Requirements for Water Use Licence Applications and Appeals’ (Government Notice R267 of 24 March 2017). SES has extensive experience in undertaking both WULA and GA applications.


General authorisations (GA)

The Department of Water and Sanitation, as the responsible authority, has by notice in the Government Gazette issued General authorisations that generally apply to specific water uses in relation to specific water resources and/or in specific areas. If a proposed activity complies with all the conditions as set out in the applicable general authorisation, the activity will only be subject to registration process that can be finalised within 30 days.


Water Use Licence Application (WULA)

A Water Use Licence Application process is required when the risk of impact to a water resource is too high and the proposed activity does therefore not comply with the conditions of a General authorisation. The water use licence application process is undertaken within a period of 300 days which is initiated with the submission of the initial application documents and concludes when a decision is reached by the Department of Water and Sanitation. Contrary to the registration process required for a general authorisation, the water use licence application process requires a site visit to the area where the activity occurs or is proposed; a public participation process; detailed specialist assessments of the likely impacts on water resources and assessment of the application by the competent authority.