WARMS - Water Use Registering and Licensing
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South Africa's scarce water resources are under increasing pressure. We will have to use them efficiently, effectively and wisely if we wish to build a sustainable future. In order to do this, we need to know how much water is used, by whom, and where. Once we know this, we will be able to measure it against how much water is actually available for use. 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.

The National Water Act (Act 36 of 1998) gives the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry the tools to gather the information that we need for the optimal management of our water resources. The registration of water use is one of these tools.

What is Registration ?

Registration comprises the asking and answering of 4 basic questions :

  1. Who are you?
  2. Where are you?
  3. How much water are you using?
  4. What are you using it for?

A registration form will be provided to anyone who must register their water use. The registration form comprises a number of pages in order to contain all the supporting information that the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry requires. This information will enable us to build up a picture of water use in the various catchments.

Who Must Register ?

All water users instructed to register have the statutory obligation to do so. There are strict penalties, prescribed in the Act, for those who do not comply. In future, when water users are required to apply for licences, those who did not register will lower their chances of getting a licence to use water.

The following water users must Register their water use:

All water users, who do not receive their water from a service provider, local authority, water board, irrigation board, government water scheme or other bulk supplier and who are using water for:

  • Irrigation
  • Mining purposes
  • Industrial use
  • Feedlots, or
  • In terms of a General Authorisation.

This covers the use of surface and ground water

Other uses which must be registered, include :

  • Diversion of rivers and streams
  • Discharges of waste or water containing waste
  • Storage. Any person or body storing water for any purpose (including irrigation, domestic supply, industrial use, mining, aqua culture, fishing, water sport, aesthetic value, gardening, landscaping, golfing, etc) from surface runoff, groundwater or fountain flow in excess of 10 000 cubic meters or where the water area at full supply level exceeds 1 hectare in total on land owned or occupied by that person or body and not in possession of a permit or permission.
  • Stream flow reduction activities (Afforestation). All afforestation (tree planting) for commercial purposes, including communal forestry for commercial gain, that took place prior to 1972, must be registered. Forest owners who have permits issued under the Forestry Act need not register, as we will send them completed registration documents, compiled from our records, to amend if required, to sign and return.
  • Local authorities and other bulk suppliers with their own water sources and purification works.
  • Controlled Activities, such as irrigating with waste, power generation with water, atmospheric modification or recharging an aquifer.

Existing lawful use:

Registration also applies to all existing lawful use, which is defined in the National Water Act as a water use -

(a) which took place at any time during a period of two years immediately before 1st October 1998;


(b) which has been declared an existing lawful water use under Section 33, and, which was authorised by or under any other law before that date.

Registration also applies to those engaged in stream flow reduction activities (afforestation) or controlled activities, described above.

If in doubt, contact your nearest Water Affairs and Forestry Office and ask!

Who does NOT need to Register:

If you receive water from a local authority, a water board, an irrigation board or another bulk water supplier you do not need to register that use. The Department will register you if required and send you a certificate or a semi-completed application to fill in.

The National Water Act allows a person to take water for reasonable domestic use directly from any water resource to which he or she has lawful access. No licence or registration is required for this.

It also allows a person to take water for small gardening (not for commercial purposes) and the watering of animals (excluding feedlots) on land owned or occupied by that person, from any water resource which is situated on or forms a boundary of that land, if the use is not excessive in relation to the capacity of the water resource and the needs of other users. This means that most users using groundwater in towns and cities and those users with windmills on their own properties need not register.

Why register ?

  • To manage water resources:
    To be able to manage the water resources of South Africa the Department needs to know where and what water is being used. To manage the water resources effectively means that the Department requires measurement of all the important parameters. This will enable the Department to fulfil the mandate of the National Water Act which strives to promote the optimal beneficial use of water in the public interest.
  • To ensure fair share allocation:
    To be able to allocate water, the Department must know both how much water is available, and how much is already being used.
  • To protect the environment:
    The National Water Act requires the protection of the aquatic environment. To achieve this we must ensure that water use is efficient, is well planned, and that pollution is reduced to a minimum.
  • To enable the Department to charge for water:
    In terms of the Department's pricing strategy, all users have to pay for water. Once registered, water users will be charged for the water they use. These charges will contribute to the proper management of our water resources thus protecting the future water security of users.

Where Must You Register ?

All persons or bodies required to register can contact any Regional Office of the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (see addresses and telephone numbers on back page) for the relevant forms and assistance.

Officials of the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry will be visiting most areas within the year following 1 October 1999 where water use has to be registered, at a publicised date and venue to assist you in your applications.

How and When Do You Register ?

  • Personal Contact
    If the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry is already aware of your water use, they will contact you directly. Agricultural unions, farmers unions, NGO's etc will be asked to mobilise their members or stakeholders to register.
  • Media
    When required to register a specific use in a defined geographic area, advertisements will be placed in the local media to inform such users to register. This will be done in a phased manner.
  • Website
    Most of the information regarding the implementation of the Act is available on the website (http://www.dwaf.gov.za).

Benefits of Registration

  • Registering your water use promptly and correctly will improve your claim to lawful use established before the promulgation of the Act.
  • If you register, you will not have to face prosecution for non-compliance.
  • If you do not register you might lose your claim to use water. Ultimately all significant water use will be licensed. If you are not registered, we will not be aware of your use and will not be able to licence your water use!

Contact persons for more information or any enquiries

  • Regional Directors
  • Area Managers of the nearest offices of the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry




Waste Discharge Registration: DWAF calls on all waste dischargers to register their activities in terms of Section 21 (e), (f), (g), (h) and (j) of the National Water Act (no 36 of 1998) by [DATE].
Raw Water Charges 2008/09
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