Verification of water use
Today, our country has, in the National Water Act, a sound legal framework for managing its limited water resources. The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) have developed, through long and careful consultations, a considered approach to how the limited water resources should be shared out.
Existing water users are one of the key stakeholders in these processes. Many of these users are making productive use of water resources, in industry, agriculture, forestry, mining, and in local government. Their contribution to the economy and employment is significant, and the DWAF need to ensure that water is made available to sustain and grow those contributions. As custodian of the national water resources, the DWAF must also promote the beneficial use of water in the best interests of all South Africans. They believe that the new approaches to Water Resource Management embodied by the National Water Act provide the means to balance the protection and use of our water resources. They are also keenly aware of the need for a just and carefully considered approach to water allocation, so as not to unfairly or unnecessarily prejudice those who make productive use of our limited resource. The DWAF have asked, in the past years, for commercial users of water to register their use to help them gather baseline information on water use throughout the country.
However, that alone cannot guarantee a future of sound water resource management, and registration of water use was only a first step. What they need now is to make sure that the water use details are accurate, and that those using water are doing so lawfully; unlawful water use is one of the greatest threats to sharing water fairly, and curbing these practices means the DWAF make water available to support new demands for water without the need for extensive curtailments to existing lawful water users. Verification is part of the procedure provided by the National Water Act to verify the extent of existing lawful water use. The DWAF call on registered water users to support work to verify the extent of existing lawful water use, as this is in the best interests of the nation as a whole.
Water belongs to the nation – it is only with the nation's participation that we can properly manage this precious and scare resource.
Verification at a glance:
Verification is a process to check the volume of water registered by existing users and its lawfulness under previous legislation, so as to certify the extent of Existing Lawful Use (ELU).
Existing Lawful Use is one of the four ways that water use can be authorised (the others are Schedule 1 uses, licences, and general authorisations). ELU allows anyone who was using water lawfully before the introduction of the National Water Act in 1998 to continue to use that water, provided you registered that use, until such time as Compulsory Licensing is introduced in your catchment. At that time, all existing lawful users will be called on to apply for licences.
The DWAF uses remote sensing techniques (satellite, aerial photographs, etc) to determine if the volume of water use you registered in 1998 was in fact accurate (validation) and that the volume of water use you registered was lawful (verification) under the legislation in force during the qualifying period.
The DWAF uses the same techniques to determine your current water use and to check for unlawful water use.
This information is fed into a data base – called WARMS – which provides an accurate picture of water use throughout the country, to assist in the rational, fair and equitable management of South Africa's scarce water resources.
Verification is being carried out in a phased approach throughout the country, starting with catchments or areas where there is the greatest water stress or there is concern about the extent of unlawful use of water. This includes catchments where Compulsory Licensing is being implemented. When verification is introduced in your catchment, you will be invited to attend a public meeting where the DWAF will explain how we have calculated the extent of each registered user's existing lawful water use (validation). You will then be called on to apply for verification through a registered or hand-delivered letter explaining what you are required to do.
Individuals can also apply for verification at any time if they want to have their water use certified (for example, if they want to sell a property).
If water users have made any changes to the volume of water they registered in 1998, they must re-register their water use, giving reasons for the changes.
What is validation? Validation is the process through which the DWAF, or the CMA, checks the volume of water use registered against how much water was actually used in the Qualifying Period, and how much is currently being used.
During registration water users were asked to register the volume of water that they were using at the time.
DWAF is aware that the water use registered was not always accurate. In fact, the water use registered could be:
- Greater than the use that actually took place on the day of registration, in which case there is a possible over-registration.
- Less than the use that actually took place on the day of registration, in which case there is a possible under-registration.
- Equal to the use that actually took place, in which case the registration is possibly correct.
- Or unregistered, where someone was using water, but did not register this use.
It is important to note that many users did not know the volume of water that they were using. In these cases the DWAF determined the water use based on the area and crop types under irrigation, as well as the type of irrigation practised.
What is verification? Verification is the process through which the DWAF makes sure that the actual volume of water use during the Qualifying Period was lawful under the Water Act, 54 of 1956, or any other applicable law in place at the time.
If the current water use is greater than the use in the Qualifying Period then some of the current use may be unlawful. If the water use that was actually taking place during the Qualifying Period was greater than what was allowed by the applicable legislation at that time, then a portion of that use could be possibly unlawful.
For further information click here. Get a list of open day meetings in your area or listen to radio broadcasts.