A New General Authorisation for Waste Related Activities may be in the Pipeline

The Director General of the Department of Water and Sanitation has extended the duration and application of the general authorisation for waste related activities until a new general authorisation for such activities is gazetted.

The general authorisation was first published in 2004 and has previously been extended and revised. The general authorisation applies to the following water uses listed under section 21 of the National Water Act (the Act):

“(e)   engaging in a controlled activity identified as such in section 37 (1)  or declared under section 38 (1);

(f)    discharging waste or water containing waste into a water resource through a pipe, canal, sewer, sea outfall or other conduit;

(g)   disposing of waste in a manner which may detrimentally impact on a water resource;

(h)   disposing in any manner of water which contains waste from, or which has been heated in, any industrial or power generation process;

(j)    removing, discharging or disposing of water found underground if it is necessary for the efficient continuation of an activity or for the safety of people”.

What is a General Authorisation?

A general authorisation is permission to use water without having to apply for a water use licence for activities or water use listed under section 21 of the Act. However, a general authorisation does not replace or limit an entitlement to use water, such as an existing lawful water use or a licence, which a person may have in terms of the Act. In fact, a general authorisation may be restricted to a particular water resource, a particular category of persons, a defined geographical area or a period of time, and requires conformity with other relevant legislation.

What does this mean?

The previous extension of the general authorisation was valid for a period of five years from its publication and due to this current continuation, the conditions and limitations of such authorisation will remain effective until the new general authorisation for waste related activities is published.  

A new general authorisation may amend or alter conditions, variables and limitations contained in the current authorisation. This may result in either new users forming part of the general authorisation or users falling out from its application, due to increased or decreased standards. Water users are pretty much in the same boat as they were before the effluxion of the previous extension and one can only wait and see if the new general authorisation alluded to by Director General will bring about any change, if it is ever published.