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The Transformed Water Regulatory Regime of South Africa [Discussion of South African Association for Water User Associations v Minister of Water and Sanitation

Stellenbosch Law Review

Viljoen, G.

July 2021

A completely new water law dispensation, amounting to a regime change, was introduced with the National Water Act 36 of 1998. The water regulatory framework changed from one that linked access to water to land ownership and differentiated between private and public water, to a framework that applies to “all water” in South Africa and that acknowledges that “water belongs to all people”. To facilitate the notion that water belongs to all people, the legislature formally introduced the concept of public trusteeship into the country’s water law. Since the promulgation of the Act, there has been no attempt in reported case law to provide a thorough exposition of the impact of the concept of public trusteeship in the water law context. This case note explores how the High Court for the first time deliberated on the impact on the nature, form, extent and limits of use rights that can be acquired in water as a natural resource in the new regulatory regime.

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