POLICY AND STRATEGY FOR GROUNDWATER QUALITY MANAGEMENT
Introduction: The National Water Act, 1998 (Act 36 of 1998) provides the necessary framework within which to protect, use, develop, conserve, manage and control our water resources. The Act needs to be underpinned by implementation-level policy and a structured management strategy. Integrated management of groundwater and surface water is required in order to provide for adequate protection of the resource. The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry already in 1994 initiated, with extensive stakeholder consultation, the development of a strategy for the management of groundwater quality. Comment on this first edition will be appreciated.
GROUNDWATER QUALITY MANAGEMENT FRAMEWORK: The National Water Act (1998) National government is empowered and empowers -through the National Water Act to fulfill obligations set out in the Act relating to the use, allocation and protection of, and access to, water resources. The National Water Act thus provides the framework within which the Department can manage the protection, use, development, conservation and control of South Africa’s water resources.
The eleven uses of water in accordance with the National Water Act are, in summary:
- taking water from a water resource
- storing of water
- impeding or diverting the flow of water in a watercourse
- engaging in stream flow reduction activities
- Engaging in controlled activities.
The eleven uses are not rights and may generally take place only in terms of an authorization or license. In its implementation of the Act, the Department must take into account the following:
a) Basic human needs of present and future generations;
b) The need for equitable access to water;
c) Redressing the results of past racial and gender discrimination.
The Department as Trustee: National Government, acting through the Minister, is the public trustee of the country’s water resources. The Minister, through the Department, is responsible for implementing the National Water Act. Surface and groundwater quality management are both important parts of this responsibility. The strategy for groundwater quality management must, therefore, ultimately be executed in the context of the Department’s overall National Water Resource Strategy, and its water quality management strategy.
Water resource management mission The Department’s water resources management missions: To act as the public trustee of the nation’s water resources to ensure that the country’s water is protected, used, developed, conserved, managed and controlled in a sustainable and equitable manner.
Groundwater quality management mission: The groundwater quality management mission is set in the context of the water resources mission and is as follows: To manage groundwater quality in an integrated and sustainable manner within the context of the National Water Resource Strategy and thereby to provide an adequate level of protection to groundwater resources and secure the supply of water of acceptable quality.
Principles in practice: Principles that will guide the implementation of thisstrategy include subsidiarity and self-regulation, pollutionprevention, integrated environmental management,equity, sustainability, the polluter pays, and publicparticipation.
Precautionary approach: Groundwater protection will be based on a precautionaryapproach. All groundwater will therefore be assumed tobe vulnerable to damage unless it can be shownotherwise. This approach to protection will beimplemented for source-directed, resource-directed andremedial management measures.
FUNCTIONAL STRATEGIES: The functional approach which the Department will adoptin order to achieve its policy goals is:
- a source-directed approach to impact prevention and minimization;
- a resource-directed approach to groundwater quality management; and
- A site-specific, needs-based approach to remediation of degraded groundwater.