Government proposes stricter regulations on recreational use of dams in South Africa

In a move that could significantly impact both individual citizens and businesses, the Minister of Water and Sanitation (DWS) has unveiled draft regulations aimed at governing the recreational use of what they are now terming ‘government waterworks’ – a new phrase introduced by the department to describe dams across South Africa.

The DWS website currently lists over 300 dams, providing a comprehensive overview of these vital water resources. The government’s new stance on the use of these ‘government waterworks’ is reflected in the recently published draft regulations.

On the Department of Water & Sanitation’s website, a detailed list of dams per province is available. Accessing this information requires users to visit the DWS website, where they can select the desired province by clicking on “Prov/Country” in the top line across the page.

The draft regulations propose a fundamental shift in the way individuals and businesses access and use these water bodies for recreational purposes. The initial comment period, which was set at 60 days, has been extended to 31 October 2023, allowing stakeholders more time to voice their concerns and opinions.

The proposed legislation suggests that existing access rights for both individuals and businesses will undergo significant changes. Notably, businesses situated along the banks of dams or utilising them in any capacity, including hotels, resorts, house boats, cruisers, restaurants, and pubs, will be compelled to enter into a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) with the government. This partnership involves, among other stipulations, a lease agreement that carries financial implications. Additionally, businesses will need explicit permission for events, photography, and other related activities.

FEDHASA will be commenting and has brought this damaging proposed legislation to the attention of both the NDT, SAT, WESGRO and Cape Town Tourism.

For those directly affected by these potential changes, it is advised to carefully review the proposed legislation and submit comments to Anet Muir at muira@dws.gov.za. Requesting acknowledgement of submissions and a reference number is recommended to ensure that feedback is duly noted.

As the consultation period continues, the implications of these regulations on the recreational use of dams in South Africa are under scrutiny, with businesses and individuals eager to have their voices heard in shaping the final outcome.

View the relevant documentation here

Government Gazette

Recreational Regulations Presentation

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