National Water Act (No. 36 of 1998]

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National Water Act (No. 36 of 1998]



Act No 36 of 1998

(English text signed by the President)

(Assented to 20 August 1998)


To provide for fundamental reform of the law relating to water resources; to repeal certain laws; and to provide for matters connected therewith.


Recognising that water is a scarce and unevenly distributed national resource which occurs in many different forms which are all part of a unitary, interdependent cycle;

Recognising that while water is a natural resource that belongs to all people, the discriminatory laws and practices of the past have prevented equal access to water, and use of water resources;

Acknowledging the National Government's overall responsibility for and authority over the nation's water resources and their use, including the equitable allocation of water for beneficial use, the redistribution of water, and international water matters;

Recognising that the ultimate aim of water resource management is to achieve the sustainable use of water for the benefit of all users;

Recognising that the protection of the quality of water resources is necessary to ensure sustainability of the nation's water resources in the interests of all water users; and

Recognising the need for the integrated management of all aspects of water resources and, where appropriate, the delegation of management functions to a regional or catchment level so as to enable everyone to participate;

BE IT ENACTED by the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa, as follows: -

Chapter 1. Interpretation and fundamental principles

This Chapter sets out the fundamental principles of the Act. Sustainability and equity are identified as central guiding principles in the protection, use, development, conservation, management and control of water resources. These guiding principles recognise the basic human needs of present and future generations, the need to protect water resources, the need to share some water resources with other countries, the need to promote social and economic development through the use of water and the need to establish suitable institutions in order to achieve the purpose of the Act. National Government, acting through the Minister, is responsible for the achievement of these fundamental principles in accordance with the Constitutional mandate for water reform. Being empowered to act on behalf of the nation, the Minister has the ultimate responsibility to fulfil certain obligations relating to the use, allocation and protection of and access to water resources.

This Chapter also contains definitions explaining the meaning of certain words used in the Act as well as provisions regarding the interpretation of the Act.

Definitions and interpretation

1.(1) In this Act, unless the context shows that another meaning is intended -

(i) ``aquifer'' means a geological formation which has structures or textures that hold water or permit appreciable water movement through them;

(ii) "borehole'' includes a well, excavation or any artificially constructed or improved underground cavity which can be used for the purpose of -

(a) intercepting, collecting or storing water in or removing water from an aquifer;

(b) observing and collecting data and information on water in an aquifer; or

(c) recharging an aquifer;

(iii) ``catchment'', in relation to a watercourse or watercourses or part of a watercourse, means the area from which any rainfall will drain into the watercourse or watercourses or part of a watercourse, through surface flow to a common point or common points;

(iv) ``charge'' includes a fee, price or tariff imposed under this Act;

(v). ``conservation'' in relation to a water resource means the efficient use and saving of water, achieved through measures such as water saving devices, water-efficient processes, water demand management and water rationing;

(vi) ``Department'' means the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry;

(vii) ``Director-General'' means the Director-General of the Department;

(viii) ``entitlement'' means a right to use water in terms of any provision of this Act or in terms of an instrument issued under this Act;

(ix) ``estuary'' means a partially or fully enclosed body of water -

(a) which is open to the sea permanently or periodically; and

(b) within which the sea water can be diluted, to an extent that is measurable, with fresh water drained from land;

(x) ``government waterwork'' means a waterwork owned or controlled by the Minister and includes the land on which it is situated;

(xi) ``instream habitat'' includes the physical structure of a watercourse and the associated vegetation in relation to the bed of the watercourse;

(xii) ``Minister'' means the Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry;

(xiii) ``organ of state'' has the meaning set out in section 239 of the Constitution;

(xiv) ``person'' includes a natural person, a juristic person, an unincorporated body, an association, an organ of state and the Mi...

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