Borehole water is NOT for resale

Endeavours to supplement a diminishing water supplyin the face of the worst drought in 100 years, South Africans are investigating alternative sources of this commodity. Johannesburg Water SOC Ltd and the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality (COJ) are consequently encouraging the use of borehole water as an alternative to the conventional municipal supply.

water boreholeDespite being on private property, borehole owners are not permitted to benefit commercially from the sale of the borehole water. 
Image credit: Borehole Water Association of Southern Africa

While drilling for a borehole on private property is well within our rights as private individuals, selling the water to those less fortunate (in that they don’t have access to their own water source) is legal – right?


Nevertheless, the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) says people selling water from private boreholes has become a growing trend.

They have this to say around the matter, ‘Any such sale would need a requisite license to be applied for. It is therefore imperative to bring to the attention of all South Africans that private boreholes are meant to operate for the benefit of the occupants of the piece of land / property on which the borehole has been drilled.

‘The recent practice of secondary trade of water, particularly as observed currently in the Western Cape, is therefore illegal. Private boreholes are for private use, for reasonable domestic use, and therefore not to be commercialised,’ says the department.

It seems however, that this is not a new trend.

In 2016, Nelson Mandela Bay businesses selling borehole and municipal water to fill up swimming pools ran the risk of being slapped with a R1 000 fine or have their water supply cut.

This is according to municipal infrastructure, engineering and electricity political head Annette Lovemore, who says that no-one is allowed to profit from the sale or delivery of water within the metro’s boundaries.

boreholeThose who can afford to, are drilling boreholes on their private property – and reaping the added benefit of selling it on, illegally.
Image credit: Chris Collingridge

The municipality, since 1 December 2016, imposed punitive water restrictions, following an instruction by Water and Sanitation Minister, Nomvula Mokonyane.

“Only the municipality has permission to sell water from municipal systems or natural resources,” she says adding that pumping water from a borehole to sell or just charging for its delivery was not allowed.

‘The recent practice of secondary trade of water, particularly as observed currently in the Western Cape, is therefore illegal.’
- Department of Water and Sanitation

In October 2017, Terry Winstanley, head of environmental  law at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, said while the amount of water that is extracted from boreholes cannot be policed, they are aware of reports of people filling their swimming pools with borehole water.

Winstanley voiced outrage over this practise during the drought, “What happens is that people are paying for water tankers filled with borehole water which fill their pool.

“This is illegal. If we use ground water unwisely, it will run out. We cannot get this water back unless it rains... The extreme would be to put water management devices  on the pumps of boreholes as well,” she says.

Winstanley points out that under the old water act, water from a borehole would typically have been considered privately owned water and its use largely unrestricted.

However, the new act stipulates that the state holds all water, regardless of its origin, in trust for the nation and allocates use rights. Under this act, water use for specified purposes is subject to certain thresholds, beyond which a licence must be obtained.

“Regulations need to be strictly enforced to prevent the further mismanagement of water in the region,” she says.

Section 22 of the Water Services Act prohibits the transaction on water without authorisation.

‘In the main, the National Water Act remains the principal piece of legislation guiding any use of water in the country,’ the department says.



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