Water is an essential source of society and any land as life is impossible without water. Water has an exceptional position in terms of other natural resources since life can survive in the absence of other resources but not without water. Water resources are managed by the location, quantity, and quality of water and the variability of water in the future.
The industry of South Africa is quickly coming to terms with the country’s water-scarce position and is making noticeable changes in both culture and technology to have a more water-wise attitude; the application for and consent to water-use licences (WULs) should be welcomed as part of the attempt to incorporate a more water-wise usage. (Jacky Burke)
National Water Act (NWA) (Act 36 of 1998)
The aim of the National Water Act, 1998 (Act No. 36 of 1998) [as amended] (NWA), is the consideration to guarantee that the nation’s water resources are preserved, controlled, used, managed and developed in numerous ways. The purpose of this Act is to outline the fundamental reform of the law, associated with water resources, to repeal specific laws and cater for matters connected therewith. The national water resources strategy delivers the country’s framework for the conservation, protection, management, development, control and use of water resources. It also offers the structure of the management within catchment or regional areas in water management areas.
The NWA includes the vital features of licences which can be issued, for instance effective places, purposes and periods as well as the attachment of the nature of conditions. No guarantee can be assured for the extension of a licence as to the quality or availability of water it covers (NWA, 1998).
The Minister may require any person to provide information to the Department as prescribed in the regulations. The general public and water users must have access to information in the national systems (NWA, 1998).
Approval must first be required from municipalities in order to use water from a source other than the proposed water service provider in terms of the Water Services Act. External guidelines are developed for an application process by the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) for generic water use authorisation.
Water uses need to be authorised if they are not allowed in terms of Schedule 1 of the NWA under a tiered authorisation system as a General Authorisation (GA) as published under Section 39 of the NWA or as a WUL, as provided for in terms of Section 21 of the NWA. Section 21 of the NWA recognises different forms of water uses including non-consumptive water uses (such as the disposal of waste in a manner which may detrimentally impact the altering of watercourses or a water resource) and consumptive (such as the storing and taking of water) and are subject to a Water Use Licence Application (WULA) process, excluding:
an Existing Lawful Use;
under General Authorisation as elucidated above; and
water use under Schedule 1;
The NWA outlines 11 consumptive and non-consumptive water uses:
21(a): Taking water from a water resource;
21(b): Storing water;
21(c): Impeding or diverting the flow of water in a watercourse;
21(d): Engaging in a stream flow reduction activity;
21(e): Engaging in a controlled activity;
21(f): Discharging waste or water containing waste into a water resource through a pipe, canal, sewer, or other conduit;
21(g): Disposing of waste in a manner that may detrimentally impact a water resource;
21(h): Disposing in any manner of water which contains waste from, or which has been heated in any industrial or power generation process;
21(i): Altering the bed, banks, course, or characteristics of a watercourse;
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
21(k): Using water for recreational purposes.
Specific licences are unnecessary for projects that use water from an existing distributor, such as a municipality, or fall within the scope of general authorisations that automatically apply to low water levels.
The following factors concerning water use authorisation should be taken into contemplation as specified by Section 27 of the NWA:
The efficient and beneficial use of water in the public interest;
The impact of water use and possible resource-directed measures;
Alignment with the Catchment Management Strategy (CMS);
The socio-economic impact of the decision whether or not to issue a licence;
Alignment with the Catchment Management Strategy (CMS); and
Investments made by the applicant in respect of the water use in question.
Guidelines to Water Use authorisation
The water use licence application process consists of strong B-BBEE motivation, a public participation process as well as specialist studies (e.g. geohydrological, flooding, hydrological, offset studies, and watercourse delineation) to define the sustainability of the suggested water use. Subject to the availability of free water in the catchment, a thorough report must be submitted to the DWS for approval. The applicant will be held liable for all costs incurred throughout the water use licence application process.
WUL applications are submitted online via the eWULAA (Electronic Water Use Licence (WUL) Application and Authorisation) portal. This ensures that all information presented is kept safe, it allows users to see the current stage of their application and the party responsible for providing information.
e-WULAAS (Electronic Water Use Licence (WUL) Application & Authorisation System) has a twofold objective:
Offer an online portal to the DWS clients in order for them to register and submit applications for water-use authorisation.
Provide an internet-based interface for the authorisation staff to coordinate, track, manage, and finalise the authorisation processes of registered water uses leading to the issuance of a water use licence.
To process any WULA, there are generally six steps to follow. The application process is divided into 3 Phases which must be completed comprehensively. These steps are aimed at testing the application specifically against Section 27 of the NWA. These steps are as follows:
Step 1 – Pre-Application process (Phase 1): This phase begins as soon as you receive your licence application which is used to check what is needed in order to process the licence application. Missing information must be filled in and initial feedback may be received before the application fee is payed (R 100.00 + VAT) – hence you can decide whether to continue with the process.
The DW758 (Company Registration Form) form must be completed with your business information in order to complete the process along with the water uses applied for, details of the property owner and where the water uses will take place (property details).
Step 2 – Application Initiation (Phase 2): The DWS establishes the necessary information required in order to compile a technical report which supports the application. The decision of information requirements is based on the site inspection or the information on the form, if necessary.
Step 3 – Screening (Phase 3): This is the screening of the Technical Report and the acceptance or rejection thereof.
Step 4 – Processing and Finalising: The current step consists of the evaluation of the Technical Report where the information is assessed by specialist groups, together with the recommendation to the Delegated Authority at the Head office of DWS for a decision.
Step 5 – Decision by the Delegated Authority: The Delegated Authority will determine the approval or refusal of the application after the consideration of all relevant information.
Step 6 – Implementation: The regional office will begin implementing the licence together with issuing and highlighting the conditions attached to the water use licence. Depending on the difficulty of the application, the potential consequences and its benefits to the general public, it may take up to 300 days to process an application for a water use licence. Applicants may be requested at any time to provide more information, to invite comments from interested parties and affected parties or to advertise the proposed water use.
Public Participation (PP) is requested by Sections 40 and 42 of the NWA which provide for the responsible authority as well as assessing the likely effect of the proposed licence on the protection, preservation, use, management, development, and control of the water source.