2 June 1998
The National Water Bill
Water is a scarce and unevenly distributed national resource that belongs
to all the people. Because of the discriminatory laws and practices of
the past government, all South Africans have not had equal access to water
and the use of water resources. The ANC Government has the responsibility
to ensure that the inequalities with regard to access of the nation's water
resources are remedied.
Objectives of the Bill
The main object of the Bill is to manage the nation's water resources
to achieve sustainable use of water for the benefit of all. So it is necessary
to provide for the protection of the quality of water resources and for
the integrated management of water resources. Powers will be delegated
to institutions at regional or local levels to enable everyone to participate
in management decisions. The Bill accordingly seeks to provide for the
protection, use, development, conservation, management and control of the
nation's water resources. In so doing it takes into account the need to:
- meet the basic human needs of present and future generations
- promote fair access to water
- redress the results of past racial and gender discrimination
- promote the efficient, sustainable and beneficial use of water in the
- facilitate social and economic development
- provide for growing demands for water use
- protect ecosystems and their biological diversity
- reduce and prevent pollution and degradation of water resources
- meet international obligations
- promote dam safety
- manage floods and droughts
Main Features of the Bill
The Bill will develop strategies to simplify the proper management,
classification, and protection of the water resources against pollution,
and deal with the effects of pollution.
The Bill lays the basis for regulatory water use. Where the new
regulatory system might impact on existing rights, provision is made for
the payment of compensation in certain circumstances.
The Bill also deals with measures to finance the provision of
services, to support the implementation of policies aimed at protection,
conservation and the beneficial use of water.
The Bill provides for the establishment of catchment management agencies
to involve local communities in water affairs. It empowers the Minister
to appoint advisory committees, to provide for the continued existence
of certain advisory committees, to establish bodies to implement international
agreements in respect of the management and development of water resources
shared with neighbouring countries and to promote regional co-operation
in respect of water resources.
It empowers the Minister to establish and operate government waterworks
and to deal with existing government waterworks.
It contains provisions aimed at improving the safety of dams
and provisions seeking to secure access onto and over property of others
for water resource management.
The Bill will establish a Water Tribunal for appeals against
decisions of an authority and applications for compensation for deprivation
of water use rights. It will also provide mediation
Main Differences between the Apartheid Act and the new Bill
The most significant difference between this Bill and the Apartheid
Water Act is that the latter was extremely dictatorial.
- Under the Apartheid Act the Minister decided who should get permits
to receive water from State dams. Under the ANC the powers of the Minister
vest mainly in policy matters
- An NP Minister could declare any area a State water control area and
have direct control over such water. This Bill stresses that the Water
Affairs Director-General must devolve administrative powers down to local
levels as far as possible.
- A Minister in the former NP Government could withdraw water permits
issued to people without payment of a refund. With the new Bill, licences
for the use of water must be subject to review because of the population
growth and increase in water needs.
- Under the old Act, the Minister appointed committees to help with allocating
water and it was the Minister's sole discretion to do so. Under the new
Bill interested parties have representation on catchment area agencies,
which will give them a direct say in how water is controlled and distributed.
Key Political Messages
- The ANC is committed to ensuring that the basic needs of our people
are met. This Bill is for the millions of who have no access to clean water.
It covers those who are ignorant about water legislation, who depend on
availability of water resources to create jobs and who are concerned about
the state of polluted rivers. Also those whose agricultural activities
would wither without water and whose very existence would be endangered
without water in the rivers and dams.
- The Government is not the owner of the water resources. Water resources
are a public commodity which must be regulated to meet the interests of
all the users. So no part of our water resources will be regarded as private
- The ANC is committed to the sustainability of our natural resources
and sound environmental management. That is why the Bill introduces an
innovation, a reserve, which is that amount of water required to meet basic
human needs and environmental needs.
- Our constitution obliges us to ensure that everyone has the right of
access to sufficient water. This Bill will make this a practical reality
experienced by all our people.
- The ANC is committed to the economic development of this country. This
Bill will ensure that the economy is protected, that water is made available
to create new business and that more jobs are provided. It will attract
foreign investment by guaranteeing access to water resources with the assurance
that there are measures to ensure the continued availability of water.