Water Services

Everyone has the right to have access to sufficient food and water.1

70% of the world’s surface is covered by water. Only 3.0% of the water on the earth is fresh water. The problem is that 69% of that is frozen in ice caps and glaciers. Which means that only 1% of the total water reserves on earth are available for human use.2

There are, at the latest count, 7.78 billion of us all vying for one of the most essential elements to our staying alive.3 Nearly 1 billion people in the developing world do not have access to clean, safe drinking water4 – and that does not mean they don’t have it on tap. It means no safe drinking water at all.

The Water Services Act 1997 attempts to address this and many other issues concerning fresh water resources in South Africa. It falls under the authority of the Minister of Water and Sanitation.

There are two aspects of the ‘water services’ contemplated by the Act:

  • One is the supply (that is, the abstraction, conveyance, treatment and distribution) of drinkable water, and water for commercial (but not industrial) use.
  • The other concerns sanitation – the collection, removal, disposal or purification of sewage.

A. Wasteful use

  1. The Minister, or any water services authority can call upon any person who is using water wastefully to stop doing so. It is an offence to fail to comply with such a notice.5

B. Water services

  1. A ‘water services work’ means any reservoir, pump house, borehole, sewage treatment plant, pipeline, meter and just about anything else built, installed or used by a water services installation to provide water services, or to provide water for industrial use, or to dispose of industrial effluent. It is an offence to interfere with any such water services work.6

  2. It is an offence to use someone to provide water services if they are not a ‘provider’ nominated by the local water services authority.7

  3. No one may obtain water for industrial use from any source other than the distribution system of a provider nominated by the local water services authority. It is an offence to do otherwise.8

  4. It is also an offence to collect, remove, dispose of or treat effluent emanating from the industrial use of water, in any manner other than that approved by the local water services authority.9

C. Inspectors

People authorised to do so by the Minister (or any Provincial Administration or water services institution) may be called upon to inspect premises, monitor and report on water usage and general compliance with the Act.

  1. It is an offence to obstruct any person exercising rights of entry and inspection under the Act.10

  2. It is an offence to refuse to give information if required to do so.11

  3. It is an offence to give false information.12

  4. It is also an offence to fail to provide access to any books, accounts, documents or event assets if required to do so.13

D. Employers and principals take note

  1. If your employee, or agent does anything (or fails to do something) which constitutes an offence, and he does so with your express or implied permission, you are also liable to conviction.14

  2. Employees and agents are also guilty of the offence, even so.15

  1. Section 27 of the ‘Bill of Rights’ in the Constitution. 


  3. Estimated as of June 2020. See


  5. Section 82(1)(a) read with section 82(2). 

  6. Section 82(1) read with section 1 and section 82(2). 

  7. Section 82(1)(c) read with section 6(1) and section 82(2). 

  8. Section 82(1)(1) read with section 7(1) and section 82(2). 

  9. Section 82(1)(c) read with section 7(2), section 1 and section 82(2). 

  10. Section 82(1)(d) read with section 81 and section 82(2). 

  11. Section 82(1)(e) read with section 82(2). 

  12. Section 82(1)(e) read with section 82(2). 

  13. Section 82(1)(f) read with section 82(2). 

  14. Section 82(3)(a). 

  15. Section 82(3)(b).