One such alternative is the establishment of a private borehole on one’s property to act as either a back-up (to municipal) or in some cases primary water supply for domestic and potable use.
Drilling a borehole on your private property is well within your rights as private individual but there are certain regulatory limitations to what that water may be used for. In this article, we explore the dos and don’ts of private borehole use in the South African Legislative context.
Registering your borehole?
The National Water Act (NWA Act 36 of 1998) is the principal piece of legislation that guides the use of water in the country. According to this Act, National Government is the custodian of the country’s water resources, holding it in trust for the nation and allocating water use rights based on specific purposes and within certain thresholds.
It is important to note that, under the NWA, one does not register a borehole per se but the focus is rather on the water use.
According to Chapter 4 and Schedule 1 of the NWA, a person may only use water without a licence or registration if it is for basic uses, i.e. reasonable domestic use, small gardening (non-commercial purposes), and watering livestock (which excludes feedlots), amongst others. This is also in-line with the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa in terms of everyone’s right to access to basic water supply to support life and personal hygiene. If your water use, or intended water use, falls outside the provisions of Schedule 1, it will need to be registered under the General Authorizations or Licenced under Compulsory Licensing. Some municipalities however, have bylaws requiring the registration of boreholes irrespective of the provisions of the NWA. It is recommended to contact your own Local Authority to ascertain your responsibilities in this regard.
How much water may I use?
The Revised General Authorization for the taking and storing of water (2016) states that a water use must be registered if a person takes more than 10 cubic meters of water from a groundwater resource on that property per day on average over a year. The upper limit of use (after which Licensing is compulsory) is not set in general but depends on the size of the property in relation to the specific catchment that the property lies in to a maximum of 40 000 cubic meters per year. Abstraction of groundwater at more than 2 litres per second must be monitored and reported with the responsible authority. Further to this, storage of more than 10 000 cubic meters of groundwater on a property needs to be registered.
Selling the water from your borehole?
Basically, you cannot sell the water because you do not own the water.
The secondary trade of water is illegal as private boreholes are for private use and not to be commercialised. Section 22 of the Water Services Act (Act 108 of 1997) prohibits the transaction on water without authorisation/nomination as a water services intermediary by the relevant Water Services Authority. Another aspect to this is the sale of packaged/bottled water as regulated by the Department of Health through Section 15(2) of the Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act and the Regulations relating to Bottled Water.
Water safety and sustainability?
It is important to ensure that the water sourced from a private borehole is safe for its intended use. We recommended testing the quality of your borehole water at a reputable water testing laboratory on a regular basis to ensure fitness of use. Apart from quality, it is also imperative that a borehole’s sustainable yield be established and that pumping equipment be spec’d accordingly to ensure that a aquifer is not over utilised.
Aquatico, with their SANAS accredited water testing laboratory and supporting consultants and specialists, will be able to advise and assist with all private borehole use requirements including borehole siting and drilling, yield testing, water quality testing, borehole equipping, water use registrations and authorisations.