In June this year, the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) committed itself to fast-tracking water use licences, promising meaningful engagement with all stakeholders in a bid to resolve delays and issue water use licences within 90 days.

While searching for the latest available information, Stockfarm asked Anil Singh, deputy director-general for water sector regulation at the DWS, whether there are any new developments in terms of the water use licence application process.

According to Singh, the DWS has been working around the clock to reach the desired goal since the process to facilitate the 90-day turnaround time was revised. “We will shortly start undertaking workshops within the regions for both Catchment Management Agencies (CMAs) and applicants. As soon as these workshops have taken place, the 90-day turnaround programme will be rolled out,” he says.

He also answered a few questions that we put to him.

Q: Can anyone use the online application process to sign up?

A: Absolutely. The online system is user friendly and any person who is literate and understands English at a working level will be able to use the system. There are ‘help’ tabs if one struggles and the department also has a team of technicians waiting to assist applicants, both online and telephonically.

The process is clearly set out and the regulations indicate which role-players are part of each step in the application process. Each case, or application enquiry, is assigned to a case officer affiliated with the department and who understands water resource management, as well as the application process. A case officer must guide the applicant through the process. Our case officers are located in all nine provinces of South Africa, as well as two CMAs.

Q: What are the steps in the water use licence application and appeals process?

A: There are eight steps in the process:

  1. Pre-application enquiry.
  2. Application submission.
  3. Acknowledgement of receipt of the application.
  4. Site inspection.
  5. Compilation and submission of water use technical report.
  6. Accepting or rejecting the water use licence application (WULA) technical report: Close application or proceed.
  7. Assessment.
  8. Decision and communication to the applicant.

Q: How can applicants track the application process?

A: Applicants can check the progress of their applications at any time via the Electronic Water Use Licence Application and Authorisation System (e-WULAAS) at the DWS. Alternatively, applicants can phone a case officer or manager in any of the provinces or CMAs.

Q: How does the DWS process various applications, and do you prefer it being done by the applicant or a consultant?

A: Neither the DWS nor the regulations prescribe whether an applicant or a consultant must handle an application. We advise applicants to contact the department in their region or at one of the two CMAs to enquire about the need for water use authorisation.

Our case officers are trained to determine which type of water use authorisation is required and the information needed. This type of information makes it easier for applicants to determine whether they will need to appoint a consultant. The complexity of each type of authorisation differs.

In addition, applications differ based on their complexities. For example, applications for single water use licences tend to be much easier than integrated ones (multiple water use licences). Some water use licences are more complex than others, such as water use licences for facilities containing wastewater that can pollute water resources. It is important to note that, where technical reports are required, these reports must be compiled by people registered with professional bodies in their relevant fields.

Q: Can a consultant speed up the process?

A: The DWS cannot comment as to whether consultants can speed up the process or not. – Carin Venter, Stockfarm

For more information, contact Sputnik Ratau, director of media liaison
at the DWS, on 082 874 2942 or visit