A Guide to Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) Licence Applications in South Africa

The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) regulates water use in South Africa. If your activity involves water use, you might need a license from the DWS. This guide will equip you with the knowledge to navigate the application process.

Do I Need a Licence?

Before diving into the application process, it’s crucial to determine if you actually need a license. Here are some resources to help you decide:

  • National Water Act (Act No. 36 of 1998): Review this act to understand its legal framework regarding water use. You can find it on the DWS website [invalid URL removed].
  • General Authorisations: The DWS issues General Authorisations for specific water uses with minimal impact. Check the DWS website (https://www.dws.gov.za/ewulaas/WUL.aspx) to see if your activity falls under a General Authorisation, which would simplify the process.

Types of Water Use Licences:

If a General Authorisation doesn’t apply, you’ll need to submit a formal licence application. The DWS issues different licence categories based on the water use:

  • Water Abstraction Licence: Needed for removing water from a source (e.g., borehole, river).
  • Waste Discharge Licence: Required for discharging waste into water resources.
  • Stream Diversion Licence: Necessary for diverting water flow.
  • Dam Safety Licence: For constructing or operating a dam.
  • Inland Vessel Registration: Needed for operating a vessel on a waterway.

The Application Process:

The application process can be complex, so it’s recommended to consult a water law specialist for guidance. However, here’s a general overview:

  1. Identify the Correct Licence Type: Determine the specific licence category you require based on your water use activity.
  2. Gather Information: You’ll need detailed information about your proposed water use, including:
    • Location of the activity
    • Volume and source of water to be used
    • Purpose of water use
    • Potential impacts on the water resource
    • Mitigation measures to minimize negative impacts
  3. Complete Application Form: Download the relevant licence application form from the DWS website (https://www.dws.gov.za/Documents/BROCHURE_Water%20Use%20Lisence_Outer.pdf). Fill out the form accurately and comprehensively.
  4. Supporting Documentation: Attach necessary documents such as:
    • Property ownership or lease agreement for the location
    • Technical reports on water use and potential impacts
    • Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) if required for your project
    • Payment of the application fee
  5. Submit Application: Submit your completed application, along with all supporting documents, to the relevant DWS regional office. The DWS website (https://www.sanews.gov.za/south-africa/have-your-say-revised-water-use-licence-regulations) lists contact details for regional offices.

Additional Considerations:

  • Processing times can vary depending on the complexity of your application.
  • The DWS might request additional information or clarification during the process.
  • Public participation processes might be required for certain projects.


  • DWS Website: The Department of Water and Sanitation website offers valuable resources on water use licences, including application forms and guidelines: https://www.dws.gov.za/ewulaas/WUL.aspx
  • Water Law Specialist: Consulting a water law specialist can provide valuable guidance throughout the application process.

Remember, responsible water use is crucial for South Africa’s future. By following these steps and seeking professional advice if needed, you can navigate the DWS licensing process efficiently and contribute to sustainable water management.