All water uses in South Africa are governed by the National Water Act 36 of 1998 (NWA) to ensure the sustainable management of all water resources. The term “water use” refers to a specific water-related activity that is regulated by legislation. All water uses that are not for domestic use (e.g., abstraction from rivers, boreholes, or irrigation) must be registered with the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) and/or relevant Irrigation Boards (IBs), Water User Associations (WUAs) or Catchment Management Agencies (CMAs). Also, if a dam has a storage capacity of 10 000 cubic metres or more, the storage of water should also be registered.

Only water use activities that are listed under Schedule 1 of the NWA are deemed permissible and do not require a licence or registration. These water use activities include:

  1. Domestic water use
  2. Storing and using run-off water from a roof
  3. Small (non-commercial) gardening
  4. Using water for emergencies (e.g., firefighting or human consumption)