South African Government

Let's grow South Africa together

Water and sanitation

Regulating water services


The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) is central to the economic development and social well-being of the country as its mandate is to provide sufficient, reliable, clean water 365 days a year to support socio-economic growth. 

The  department’s legislative  mandate is to ensure that  the  country’s water  resources are  protected, managed, used, developed, conserved and  controlled  by regulating and supporting the delivery of effective water supply and sanitation. This is done in accordance with the requirements of water‐related policies and legislation  that are critical in delivering on people’s right to have  sufficient food and water,  growing the economy, and eradicating poverty.

Chapter 4 of the National Development Plan envisages a South Africa that recognises the importance of secure and equitable access to water and sanitation as catalysts for socioeconomic development. This is given expression by Priority 1 (economic transformation and job creation) and Priority 4 (spatial  integration, human settlements and local government) of government’s 2019‐2024 Medium Term  Strategic Framework, with which the work of the DWS is aligned.  The department was expected to continue to focus on  integrated water  resources  management, infrastructure planning  and  development; and regulating water services.

South Africa needs to reduce water demand and increase supply for a growing population and economy to ensure water security  by 2030.

The National Water and Sanitation Master  Plan details  the requirements for appropriate investment into water  resources and  services, and  sets targets for adequate water conservation and  demand management. To address water  infrastructure backlogs and improve  operational  sustainability, over  the  medium   term,  the  DWS  was  expected  to continue to plan and maintain infrastructure.

The  DWS’s projects include  acid  mine  drainage operations in Gauteng, phase 2D of the  Olifants  River  Water  Resources  Development Project,  the  Mokolo‐Crocodile   River Water Augmentation Project,  the raising of Tzaneen Dam, the Umdloti River Development Project,  and the raising of the Hazelmere Dam.

The construction of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project  Phase II is aimed  at achieving water security  and aimed  at delivering water to South Africa by November 2026.

Regulating water services

The DWS planned to reintroduce regulatory quality valuations on the provision of water services. These valuations are intended to measure the level of compliance with the green drop and blue drop standards. To improve equitable access to water  resources, the DWS planned to process 80% of the water  use  licence  applications it receives within 120 days. In addition,  the  department plans  to assess and  determine the  resource quality  of the uThukela River system.


Consolidated water boards

Water  boards derive  their mandates from the  Water  Services Act of 1997  and  are  listed under  schedule 3B in the Public Finance Management Act of 1999.  There  are  nine water boards, which are primarily mandated to provide bulk industrial and potable water services to municipalities  and industries within their gazetted areas of operation.

Rand Water and Umgeni Water, which are discussed separately, operate largely in urban areas while others operate in rural areas. In addition to responding to their core mandate, some water boards provide retail water and sanitation services on behalf of municipalities as secondary activities.

Rand Water

Rand Water was established in terms of the Water Services Act of 1997 and is categorised as a national government business enterprise in terms of schedule 3B of the Public Finance Management Act of 1999.

The water board serves about 19 million people, with the Vaal River system supplying 98% of its bulk water. Rand Water stores, treats and delivers potable water to municipalities, mines and industries in and around Gauteng.

Trans‐Caledon Tunnel Authority

The Trans‐Caledon Tunnel Authority was established in 1986 as a specialised liability management  entity,  deriving  its mandate from the National Water Act of 1998. It is responsible for financing and implementing the development of bulk raw water infrastructure, and providing treasury management services to the DWS.

The  authority  plays  an  important   role  in providing:  financial  advisory   services such as  structuring and  raising   project  finance,   managing debt   and  setting   tariffs;  project implementation services; and other technical support to the department and water boards. As such,  the  authority  will continue with the  planning  and  implementation of the  Vaal River system through  Phase 2 of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project,  providing a short‐ term  solution  to acid  mine  drainage in Gauteng, and  phase 2A of the  Mokolo‐Crocodile

River Water Augmentation Project.

Umgeni Water

Umgeni Water was established in terms of the Water Services Act of 1997 to provide water and sanitation services in its service area, which comprises mostly rural areas in KwaZulu‐ Natal and the eThekwini  metropolitan area. The water board supplies water to about six million consumers. Its ongoing objective is to support socio-economic development through water infrastructure investment in its area of operation.

Over the medium  term, the water  board  will construct: Phase 1 of the Greater Mpofana regional  water  scheme, the  Impendle bulk  water  supply  scheme, and  Phase 3  of the Maphumulo  bulk water supply scheme, targeting largely indigent municipal areas.

In addition, to ensure water security, the water board will target augmentation, upgrades and the rehabilitation of projects such as the Lower Umkhomazi bulk water supply scheme and Phase 1 of the Umkhomazi  water project.

Water Trading Entity

The Water Trading Entity was established in 1983 for the management of water infrastructure and resources, and  the  sale  of raw water.  It was converted into a trading entity in terms of the Public Finance Management Act of 1999 in 2008.

Over the medium term, the entity is expected to continue focusing on maintaining existing water resource infrastructure, supporting the long‐term sustainability of water resources, and support economic development.

Accordingly, over the period ahead, the entity anticipates the completion of three raw water projects (Tzaneen Dam, Clanwilliam Dam and Hazelmere Dam).

Other entities

  • The Breede‐Gouritz Catchment  Management Agency  plays  a  key  role  in  the  use, protection and  development of water  resources in the Breede‐Gouritz water  catchment area.
  • The Inkomati‐Usuthu Catchment Management Agency plays a key role in the use, protection and development of water resources in the Inkomati‐Usuthu water catchment area.
  • The  Water   Research  Commission’s mandate  is  to  conduct research  on  water   by determining needs and  priorities for research, stimulating  and  funding water  research, promoting the effective transfer of information and technology, and enhancing knowledge and capacity building in the water sector. Research is informed by government policies, needs and international trends.