Department Of Water And Sanitation Affairs

By | December 10, 2021

Department Of Water And Sanitation Affairs, The Department of Water and Sanitation is the custodian of South Africa’s water resources. It is primarily responsible for the formulation and implementation of policy governing this sector.

While striving to ensure that all South Africans gain access to clean water and dignified sanitation, the department also promotes effective and efficient water resources management to ensure sustainable economic and social development.


Our vision is to be:

a dynamic, people centred department, leading the effective management of the nation’s water resources, to meet the needs of current and future generations.


As the sector leader, our mission is to serve the people of South Africa by:

  •   making a positive impact on our country and its people as custodians of our water and sanitation resources, and as innovative and committed partners in the drive for sustainable development;
  •   being service and delivery oriented. We strive to get it right the first time, every time, on time – ensuring that our citizens are provided with water and sanitation services they deserve;
  •   leading our sector and enable partners with knowledge and capacity to ensure that all water services are delivered;
  •   being committed to innovation and use cutting edge technology as a catalyst of positive change, connecting our people and enabling them to work anywhere anytime;
  •   having a heart that values our investment in our people. We provide them with a caring and trusting environment that encourages personal development and is a breeding ground for talent.

 Our Values

  •   Transparency – we fulfil our mandate in an ethical and open manner
  •   Respect – we respect each other, as well as our clients, and the needs of our citizens
  •   Excellence – we are leaders and innovators in our sector who get it right on time every time
  •   Everyone – we are a caring employer who through teamwork serves South Africa’s people

Water and sanitation

The Department of Water and Sanitation’s (DWS) legislative mandate seeks to ensure that the country’s water resources are protected, managed, used, developed, conserved and controlled in a sustainable manner for the benefit of all people and the environment.

The DWS is mandated to develop a knowledge base and implement effective policies, procedures and integrated planning strategies both for water resources and services.

This entails adhering to the requirements of water-related policies and legislation, including constitutional requirements, that are critical in delivering on the right of access to sufficient food and water, transforming the economy and eradicating poverty.

According to the Stats SA’s GHS 2017, although 88,6% of South African households had access to piped water in 2017, only 74,2% of households in Eastern Cape, and 74,7% of households in Limpopo enjoyed such access. While South Africa has progressed in the supply of water to most urban and rural areas, water supply remains challenging in many communities in the country.

This situation does, however, represent a substantial improvement from that of 2002 when only 56,1% of households in Eastern Cape had access to piped water. Access to water in the dwellings, off-site, or on-site was most common in Nelson Mandela Bay (100%), the City of Cape Town (99,3%) and the City of Johannesburg (98,4%).

Nationally, 63,9% of households rated the quality of water-related services they received as good’. Satisfaction has, however, been eroding steadily since 2005 when 76,4% of users rated the services as good. An estimated 46,4% of households had access to piped water in their dwellings in 2016.

A further 26.8% accessed water on site while 13,3% relied on communal taps and 2,4% relied on neighbours’ taps. Although generally households’ access to water is improving, 3,7% of households still had to fetch water from rivers, streams, stagnant water pools and dams, wells and springs in 2017. This is, however, much lower than the 9,5% of households that had to access water from these sources in 2002.


According to the GHS 2017, through the provision and the efforts of government, support agencies and existing stakeholders, an additional 20,5% of households in South Africa have access to improved sanitation since 2012.

Western Cape (94,1%) and Gauteng (90,1%) were the provinces with the highest access to improved sanitation in the country, while provinces such as Mpumalanga and Limpopo had the lowest percentages at (67,6%) and (58,9%) respectively.

When analysing in the metropolitan areas, the highest percentages of households with access to improved sanitation were recorded in the City of Johannesburg (95.1%), Buffalo city (93,6%) and Nelson Mandela Bay (93,5%) and lowest percentages were recorded in the City of Tshwane (82,3%) and eThekwini (83,4).

Nationally, the percentage of households without sanitation, or who used the bucket toilet system decreased from 12,6% to 3,1% between 2002 and 2017.

Almost one-quarter (23,7%) of households expressed concern about poor lighting at the shared sanitation sites, trailed by inadequate hygiene (17,9%), and inadequate physical safety (16,3%).

Another 17,9% of households complained that there was no water to wash their hands after they had used the toilet, while 19,3% singled out long waiting times they experienced when they had to access these facilities.

National Water and Sanitation Master Plan (NWSMP)

To ensure a more co-ordinated approach to water and sanitation management, planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation, the DWS has developed the NWSMP.

The NWSMP points out the priority actions required until 2030 and beyond to ensure the water security and equitable access to water and sanitation services for all in South Africa.

It was developed in partnership with all relevant organs of state and water sector stakeholders, to give effect to local, national, regional, continental and international water and sanitation delivery targets and commitments.

National Water Resource Strategy (NWRS)

The National Water Resource Strategy (NWRS2) sets out the vision and strategic actions for effective water management. These included the security of water supply, environmental degradation, and pollution of resources.

It outlines the key challenges, constraints and opportunities in water resource management and proposes new approaches that ensure a collective and adequate response for the benefit of all people in South Africa.

This strategy moves towards the achievement and attainment of an inclusive sustainable and equitable economy.

The NWRS2 ensures that the management of national water resources contributes towards achieving South Africa’s growth, development and socio-economic priorities in an equitable and sustainable manner..

The strategy also responds to the priorities set by government in the NDP and National Water Act of 1998 imperatives that support sustainable development.

Dams and water schemes

The country has more than 500 government-owned dams spread across all nine provinces. They range in storage capacity from a volume of 5 500 million m3 of water down to 0,2 million m3 of water.

South Africa uses about 10 200 million m3 of water a year from its major dams. The majority of water consumption can be attributed to drinking, irrigation, electricity, mining processes and industrial processes.

Bucket Eradication Programme

In keeping with the aspirations of the NDP, steady progress is being made towards eradicating the bucket toilet system in both formal and informal areas across South Africa.

In the 2017/18 financial year, the DWS had planned to eradicate the existing bucket sanitation backlog in formal settlements.However, a total of 8 313 buckets were eradicated in the Northern Cape and Free State areas. The project was hampered by the lack of bulk infrastructure to connect the sanitation systems.

Role players

Water boards

The primary activity of water boards is to provide water services (bulk potable and bulk waste water) to other water services institutions within their respective service areas.

They may perform other activities under conditions set out in the Water Services Act of 1997. There are 15 water boards in South Africa, with the three largest being Rand Water in Gauteng, Umgeni Water in KwaZulu-Natal and Overberg Water in the Western Cape.

Catchment management agencies (CMAs)

The main responsibilities of CMAs are to manage water resources at catchment level in collaboration with local stakeholders, with specific focus on involving local communities in the decision-making processes, in terms of meeting basic human needs, promoting equitable access to water, and facilitating social and economic development.

Water-user associations (WUAs)

WUAs are cooperative associations of individual water users who wish to undertake water-related activities at local level for their mutual benefit.

Water Research Commission (WRC)

The WRC has a vital role in water research by establishing needs and priorities, stimulating and funding research, promoting the transfer of information and technology, and enhancing knowledge and capacity building in the water sector.

It also focuses on water resources management, water-linked ecosystems, water use and waste management, and water use in agriculture.

Water Trading Entity (WTE)

The DWS is responsible for the regulation of water use in South Africa by ensuring that water is allocated equitably and  used  beneficially  in  the  public  interest,  and  is  also required to create a register of all water users in the country.

The National Water Act of 1998 provides for cost recovery on services rendered by the department to water users. It is against this background that the department created the WTE within its administration.

The main function of the WTE is development, operation and maintenance of specific water resources infrastructure and managing water resources in specific water management areas.

Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority (TCTA)

The Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority is a State-owned entity (SOE) specialising in project financing, implementation and liability management.

It is responsible for the development of bulk raw-water infrastructure. It also provides an integrated treasury management and financial advisory service to the DWS, water boards, municipalities and other entities that are linked to bulk raw-water infrastructure.

Komati River Basin Water Authority

The Komati Basin Water Authority was established in terms of a treaty between South Africa and Swaziland. The aim of the authority is to manage the water resources of the Komati River basin sustainably. The authority is responsible for financing, developing, operating and maintaining the water resources infrastructure in the basin, comprising the Driekoppies Dam in South Africa and the Maguga Dam in Swaziland.

Water Tribunal

The aim of the Water Tribunal is to hear appeals against directives and decisions made by responsible authorities, CMAs or water management agencies about matters such as the issuing of licences to use water. It is an independent body and can hold hearings anywhere in the country.

Strategic Water Partners Network – South Africa (SWPN)

In South Africa, water demand is expected to increase significantly over the next 30 years.

The SWPN is a dynamic and cutting-edge partnership between the DWS, the private sector and civil society working collectively to close a 17% gap between water supply and demand that is anticipated to manifest by the year 2030 in South Africa. The partnership strives to contribute to efficient, equitable and sustainable water supply and access to water for all South Africans through the identification and application of innovative and cost-effective solutions and programmes.

The SWPN will identify potential projects, assess these projects’ ability to close the water volume gap, review best practices and technology, identify challenges that are limiting the replication of these projects nationally and nally, recommend how to overcome these challenges including incentives for widespread adoption.