Clinton Pavlovic

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Primer: National water act


The National Water Act (NWA) was enacted to ensure that water resources are protected and conserved in a sustainable and equitable manner (sections 2 and 3). The entitlement to use water is regulated by requiring a user to acquire a water use licence before commencing with various activities.

Definition of water use

Water use is defined broadly in the NWA, and includes:

Requirement for a water use licence

A water use licence is required is for any water use unless the water use:

A person is not automatically entitled to use water for prospecting, mining, exploration or production solely because a right has been granted for the activity in terms of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) (section 5(3)(d)). The use of water for these activities are still regulated by the NWA and a separate water use licence is needed if the water use falls outside of the scope of the general authorisations under the NWA.

The general authorisations issued in terms of the NWA allows prospecting, mining, and quarrying companies, and other small industrial users, to use and store certain quantities of groundwater and surface water without needing a water licence (item 1.7 of GN 399 in GG 26187 of 26 March 2004).

The specific quantities are allowed, are however, dependant on the drainage regions where the activities will take place, and are subject to the water use not being excessive or detrimental to other water users.

Even if the water use falls within the authorisation and a water licence is not required, a water user may still be required to register as a water user.

Before commencing with any activities that may need water, it is necessary for a person to determine if the use of water is regulated by the NWA, and if so:


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