Department Of Water And Sanitation Registration

By | December 8, 2021

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 and Sanitation 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 Water Use Registration?

Water use registration is the Department of Water and Sanitation programme of systematically acquiring and recording information about the use of water by the water users for the optimal management of our water resources; and comprises the asking and answering of four (4) basic questions in respect of how much water is used, by whom, for what purpose and where.

What is the Legal Requirement for Water Use Registration?

The registration of water use support the implementation of section 137(2)(c) of the National Water act 1998 which place the duty on the Minister, as soon as it is practicable to do so, to facilitate the continued and coordinated monitoring of various aspects of water resources by collecting relevant information and data, through established procedures and mechanisms, from a variety of sources including organs of state, water management institutions and water users. The registration of water use authorizations is required in terms of section 26 (1) (c) and 34(2) of the National Water Act, 36 of 1998.

Which Water Use Authorisations should be Registered?

The registration of water use is applicable to water use licenses, existing lawful water uses and general authorizations (where specified). A general authorisation is an authorisation to use water without a licence, provided that the water use is within certain limits and complies with conditions set out in the Gazetted General Authorisation. This authorisation requires a registration with the Department prior to exercising the water use(s). Existing Lawful Water Use (ELU) means the use of water authorised by or under any law that took place at any time for a period of two years before the commencement of the National Water Act 1998.

What is the Register of Water Use?

The Water use Authorization & Registration Management System (WARMS), is the national register of water use for South Africa defined in terms of section 139(2)(d) of the National Water Act 1998, to store & produce accurate water use information to advance economic growth, development, and democracy.

Who Must Register their Water Use?

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. The following water users must register their water use: All water users who are using water for:

  • Irrigation
  • Industrial use including mining
  • Power generation
  • Recreational purposes
  • Watering livestock
  • Irrigation
  • Irrigation

This covers the use of surface and ground water. Other uses which must be registered include:

  • Diversion of rivers and streams
  • 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.
  • Discharges of waste or water containing waste in terms of section 21 of the National Water Act: This includes the following activities:
    1. Section 21(e) – engaging in a controlled activity defined as such in Section 37(1), with specific reference to irrigation of any land with waste or water containing waste generated through any industrial activity or by a water work.
    2. Section 21(f) – discharging waste or water containing waste into a water resource through a pipe, canal or other conduit.
    3. Section 21(g) – disposing of waste in a manner which may detrimentally impact on a water resource.
    4. Section 21(h) – disposing in any manner of water which contains waste from, or which has been heated in, any industrial or power generation process.
    5. Section 21(j) – removing, discharging or disposing of water found underground if it is necessary for the efficient continuation of an activity or for the safety of people.
    6. Section 21(h) – disposing in any manner of water which contains waste from, or which has been heated in, any industrial or power generation process.

The above waste water uses include a number of non-point sources of discharge:

  • Disposal of effluent to land or to a facility (such as a tailings dam, irrigated effluent or evaporation ponds treatments).
  • Disposal of effluent to land or to a facility (such as a landfill, waste rock dumps, fly ash disposal or solid waste disposal).
  • Land use activities such as confined animal facilities or dirty water systems.

Who does NOT need to Register?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 ensure fair share allocation
  • To protect the environment
  • To enable the Department to charge for water

Where Must You Register?

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

What is the fee for Water Use Registration?

Registration of water use is free. Only late registration fee is charged.

What is late Registration Penalty?

A late registration penalty, which may be waived in deserving circumstances, is a charge for submitting application for registration of water use NOT within the predetermined timeframe or failure to submit requested outstanding information within the specified timeframe as per applicable issued Government Gazette.

What is the Proof for Water Use Registration?

A signed Registration Certificate will be issued to successfully registered water users.

Where can I access the application form?

Application form can be access at: or by contacting Department of Water and Sanitation provincial offices.

Will I/we be billed on Registration Information?

Yes, provided your water use sector falls under the billable ones. It is important that you verify the correctness of your registered information on your registration certificate.

Is Failure to Register a Water Use an offence?

In terms of Section 151 (1) of the National Water Act, 1998 no person may fail to register an existing lawful water use an/or fail or refuse to give data or information, or give false or misleading data or information when required to give information under the National Water Act 1998 when required by a responsible authority to do so.

Any person who contravenes any provision of subsection 151(1) is guilty of an offence and liable, on the first conviction, to a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years, or to both a fine and such imprisonment and, in the case of a second or subsequent conviction, to a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding ten years or to both a fine and such imprisonment.