Water Use Licence Application and General Authorisation: Application and registration requirements for water uses in terms of Section 21 (c) and (i) of the National Water Act. 1998 (Act No. 36 Of 1998)

27th March 2023


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(Virtual Showroom): The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), as custodian of water resources in South Africa, is in charge of managing and regulating the country's water resources and watercourses to ensure their conservation and protection. In its efforts to promote the efficient and sustainable utilisation of water resources, the Department is committed to ensuring that water is used wisely and managed sustainably. As part of this responsibility, DWS has established legislation requiring the submission of Water Use Licence Application (WULA) or General Authorisation(GA) registration applications to licence or register water use related activities.

All activities that impede, divert the flow of a watercourse or alter the bed, banks, course or characteristics of a watercourse requires licencing or registration by DWS in terms of Section 21(c) and (i) of the National Water Act, 1998 (Act No. 36 of 1998), as amended (NWA), or the Government Notice (GN 509 of 2016) (depending on the risk the activity poses on the watercourse). Water use licencing is a regulatory mechanism used to manage water resources and to ensure its use is undertaken in a responsible and sustainable manner.

The legal procedural requirements for the WULA are set out in the Regulations regarding the Procedural Requirements for Water Use Licence Applications and Appeals, published in GN R267 in Government Gazette 40713 of 24 March 2017.

During the initial phase of the application or registration process, a detailed description of the proposed use of the water should be provided, including the type and description of the activity, the relevant industry sector, the distance to the nearest watercourse, and the number of people who will benefit from the acquisition of a licence or registration. This information is submitted to the relevant regional office, whereupon a pre-application meeting will be held with the water user, the DWS, and the consultant facilitating the application or registration process. During this stage, it will be beneficial to have, by this stage, undertaken the risk assessment by a specialist in the field as required by GN 509 of 2016. One of the aims of the risk assessment is to determine if the activity proposed to be undertaken will result in a low, medium, or high impact on watercourses and thereby determine if a water use licence or registration process needs to proceed to licence or register the water uses in terms of Section 21(c) and (i) of the NWA.

It is important that all requirements and information necessary to properly process the application needs to be provided to ensure the application and/ or registration application will be processed. It should be noted that requirements may differ depending on the type of project or industry sector. In addition, the respective regional office of the DWS may also prescribe additional requirements that may need to be complied with.

Generally, the typical licencing and registration requirements for Section 21 (c) and (i) water use activities for the GA Registration and WULA include the following:

  • Geographical location of the water use activities.
  • Identity Document (ID) copy of the applicant.
  • Company registration certificate.
  • The property title deeds.
  • A consultant appointment letter or power of attorney.
  • Risk assessment in terms of GN 509 of 2016.
  • Water Use Summary Report and Motivational Report to address Section 27 of the NWA

Should the water use activities be required to be licenced by means of a WULA, the following additional information will be required to be submitted:

  • Master layout map and site plans.
  • Landowner consent letters (if the water user is not the property owner)
  • Wetland delineation report.
  • Rehabilitation Plan.
  • Method Statement.
  • Storm Water Management Plan.
  • Hydrological Study and Floodline Delineation.
  • Design report and drawings (all drawings and reports must be signed by the professional engineer, and the registration number must also be reflected on the report and drawings).
  • Landscape Maintenance Plan.
  • Plant Species Plan (A1 paper).
  • Monitoring Programme and Auditing Plan.
  • Water Use Summary Report.
  • Water Use Technical Report.
  • Public Participation Report (capturing comments and responses during the sixty-day public participation process).

The DWS has announced for 2020 that the decision making timeframes to grant or decline a Water Use Licence have been reduced from 300 days to 90 days.

As a result of the shortened review and decision making timeframes, it is essential to ensure that the final application submitted to DWS is of a sufficient and adequate technical quality as well as contain all the necessary information to avoid a potential rejection.

By being aware of the information requirements, the environmental assessment practitioner facilitating the process on behalf of the applicant can ensure steps are taken to allow for effective planning of resources during the initial phases of a potential project, thereby avoiding application rejection, delays, and financial constraints that could have been avoided with good planning at the earliest stages of a project.

ENVASS is in the position to assist clients with the facilitation of all WULA or GA registration applications.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter



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