Government Gazette Notice: GN 509 in GG 40229 of 26 August 2016
Commencing date: 26 August 2016

The Acting Director-General of the Department of Water and Sanitation replaced the General Authorisation Regulations for water uses in terms of section 21(c) (Impeding or diverting the flow of water in a watercourse) and (i) (Altering the bed, banks, course or characteristics of a watercourse) of the National Water Act 36 of 1998 (NWA). One of the differences is that the previous General Authorisation did not apply if the water use was being conducted within a 500m radius from the boundary of any wetland. Now a risk assessment matrix must be adopted to determine risks associated with each water use in terms of regulation 7 and annexure A to the notice. If the result of the Risk Assessment is LOW and is located within the regulated area of the watercourse, water use activities would be authorised under the General Authorisation with conditions. Only medium to high risk activities would then be required to go through a Water Use Licence Application Process. The risk assessment must be conducted by a suitably qualified SACNASP professional member and must be conducted in accordance with the risk matrix and risk assessment key as per appendix A.

A water user must also ensure that a full financial provision for the implementation of the management measures prescribed in this General Authorisation, including an annual financial provision for any future maintenance, monitoring, rehabilitation, or restoration works, is established.

Also part of the amendment is the inclusion of aspects to be addressed in river management plans (appendix B) and an emergency protocol for emergency repairs etc (appendix C). The following additional amendments have been made (amongst others):

  • Inclusion of the following definitions:
  1. “Delineation of a wetland and riparian habitat”: means delineation of wetlands and riparian habitat according to the methodology as contained in the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, 2005 publication: A Practical Field Procedure for Delineation of Wetlands and Riparian Areas;
  2. “Extent of a watercourse”: means: a) a river, spring or natural channel in which water flows regularly or intermittently “within the outer edge of the 1 in 100 year flood line or riparian habitat measured from the middle of the watercourse from both banks”, and for b) wetlands and pans “within a 500 m radius from the boundary (temporary zone) of any wetland or pan” (when the temporary zone is not present then the seasonal zone are delineated as the wetland boundary), and for c) lakes and dams “purchase line plus a buffer of 50 m”;
  3. “Maintenance”: means any activity required to maintain any structure in the same working condition without increasing its size or design in any manner;
  4. “Pans”: means any depression collecting water or that is inward draining or a flow through system with flow contributions from surface water, groundwater or interflow or combinations thereof; and
  5. “Responsible authority”: means the Regional Head (Chief Director) or Chief Executive Officer of the relevant Catchment Management Agency.
  6. “River management plans”: means any river management plan developed for the purposes of river or storm water management in any municipal/metropolitan area or described river section, river reach, entire river or sub quaternary catchment that considers the river in a catchment context.
  • Amendments of provisions pertaining to exclusion from this General Authorisation, namely:
  1.  The use of water in terms of section 21(c) and (i) for the rehabilitation of a wetland, unless complied with the conditions stipulated under General Authorisation 1198, dated 18 December 2009 published in Government Gazette No 32805;
  2. The use of water in terms of section 21(c) and (i) within the extent of a watercourse where the Risk Class is Medium or High as determined by the Risk Matrix (Appendix A);
  3. If the water user must make an application for a licence for any other water use in terms of section 21 of the Act;
  4. Where storage of water results from the impeding or diverting of flow or altering the bed, banks, course or characteristics of a watercourse; and
  5. Any water use in terms of section 21(c) or (i) of the Act associated with construction, installation or maintenance of any sewerage pipelines, pipelines carrying hazardous materials and to raw water and wastewater treatment works.
  • Inclusion of provisions pertaining to assistance to people with special needs; and
  • Amendments of provisions pertaining to rehabilitation.

Appendix D1 and D2 of the General Authorisation provide certain activities that farmers, landowners and certain State Owned Entities can undertake under the General Authorisation, subject only to compliance with the conditions of the General Authorisation.

The conditions of this General Authorisation is far more extensive than the previous General Authorisation. This General Authorisation applies throughout the Republic of South Africa to the use of water in terms of section 21(c) or (i) of the Act within the regulated area of a watercourse as defined in this General Authorisation. This General Authorisation will also be valid from the date of publication and remains effective for a period of 20 (twenty) years unless it is replaced or amended by another general authorisation; or the period is extended for a further period by General Authorisation in the Gazette.

Water users relying on the new General Authorisation must register the use with the Department of Water and Sanitation prior to executing the water use.
Any water user who used water in terms of Government Notice 1199 published in Government Gazette 32805 dated 18 December 2009 may, subject to the provisions of this General Authorisation, continue with such water use subject to the conditions of this General Authorisation.

So what for my operation?
Should your operation conduct activities that impede or divert the flow of water in a watercourse, or that alters the bed, banks, course or characteristics of a watercourse, a water use activity in terms of the NWA is triggered. To ensure that you act lawful, it is required that you adhere to the provisions of this General Authorisation by conducting a risk assessment as required. Depending on the results of the risk assessment, a water use licence may be required, or only compliance to the provisions of this General Authorisation.

What is Shangoni’s approach?
Risk assessment
Shangoni has various professionals that are registered with SACNASP and can, in this regard, assist in the facilitation of a risk assessment process as required by this General Authorisation. Depending on the outcome of the risk assessment process, Shangoni can advise on whether a water use licence, or only compliance to the General Authorisation is required.

Facilitation of application for water use licences
Shangoni has the expertise and experience to undertake the full spectrum of tasks for water use licence applications for our clients within the mining and non-mining sectors. This includes the statutory public participation and consultation process and all the required interactions with the regulating authorities. Shangoni’s approach towards water use licence application development also emphasises the management of identified risks, thus adding significant value to the organisation beyond the delivery of required documentation submitted to regulators for approval.