If you want to start using water, or expand your existing use of water, you will probably need a licence to do so. Licences are also needed to;

  • Store water,
  • For new commercial forests,
  • Impeding or diverting the flow in a river,
  • Engaging in controlled activities,
  • Discharging waste to any water resource,
  • Disposing of waste in a way which could affect the water resource,
  • Disposing of heated water,
  • Altering the bed, banks course or characteristics of the water resource,
  • Removing, discharging or disposing of water found underground, and
  • For some recreational uses.

Please contact your regional DWAF office if you are unsure if your use of water use needs a licence.

If you need a licence for your water use, you will need to apply to your regional office of the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry. If a Catchment Management Agency is in place they may be able to issue the licence. Licence application forms can be downloaded from.....

There are generally 6 steps to processing any licence. These steps aim to test the application against the principle of beneficial use in the public interest, and specifically against Section 27 of the National Water Act . These steps are;

Step 1 - Pre-position and validation . This is done when your licence application is received, and is used to check if everything needed to process the licence is available. You will be asked to provide missing information, and may get initial feedback before you pay your application fee (R 114.00 in 2007) so you can decide whether to continue.
Step 2 - Initial assessment and grouping. This includes a quick assessment of the possible impacts and benefits of the proposed water use. In some cases a simple set of questions will be used to help make this assessment.
Step 3 - Regional Assessment. This step is done in the regional office where you made your application. The regional office gathers all the information required to make a decision on whether to approve the application, and makes a recommendation to the national office.
Step 4 Evaluation by the national office . Your application is then evaluated by specialist groups. These groups also make recommendations on the application. The application is then submitted to the Chief Director: Water Use for a decision.
Step 5 Decision by the Chief Director: Water Use . After considering all the relevant information, the Chief Director: Water Use will make a decision on whether to approve the application.
Step 6 Implementation. Once a decision has been made, the regional office will be informed, and they can start with implementing the licence. They will then inform you of the outcome of the application, and if approved will issue you the licence highlighting any conditions that might be attached to your water use.

You can do your own pre-assessment by clicking here.

Your licence can take anything from 3 to 12 months to process, depending on the complexity of the licence, its benefits to the nation, and its possible impacts. Generally, low impact, high value licences will be processed quicker. You may also be asked, at any stage, to provide more information, or to advertise the proposed water use, and to invite interested and affected parties to comment.

A licence cannot be issued for a period longer than 40 years, but may be issued for shorter periods if necessary.

Click here for the licensing forms.



  > Awareness Material
  > How is water use authorised?   > Extra Reading
  > How are licences processed?   > Case Studies
  > What is compulsory licensing?   > Useful Links
  > What are the "rules" for the reallocation of water?   > Screening Tool
  > What is beneficial use in the public interest?   > How much water is
available in South Africa
  > What are general authorisations?   > FAQ
  > How do we determine the extent of existing lawful water use?    
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