So, you just bought some new land or a new house and now you’re wondering about boreholes as supposedly being the eco-friendly and energy-efficient way of getting running water onto your property.

For some parts of South Africa domestic boreholes have become a growing trend due to the unfortunate and crippling drought situation which this country faces. While it is not a situation which is unique to South Africa, the global water crisis has caused increasing stress and concerns about the depleting water supply.

Therefore, what can we do, how do we ensure that we get running water almost every time we open the tap?

We must go back to basics on this one, go back to the stone age and dig. In South Africa there have been many moves towards the private and independent supply of water and boreholes have become more and more popular and sought after.

Here is what you need to know about installing a borehole on your property:

  1. Remember that borehole water is a pure and natural resource – the initial costs of obtaining some will be high; the drilling and installation of pipes and pumps costs a lot of money however there are unfathomable long-term benefits of drilling a well sunken and properly maintained borehole.
  2. Always consult an expert – this will ensure that any legal requirements and implications are met as well as any practical requirements which might arise prior to the drilling. While some municipalities are promoting the alternate use of borehole water to the conventional use of municipal water one must bear in mind the bylaws which govern this right to borehole water. The use of borehole water may be to supplement or replace the use of conventional water, one must therefore know which authorisations or permits are required in order to drill, sink and use borehole water.
  3. Find out whether you require the permission of the municipality in order to drill or sink your borehole before you begin drilling. You may be required to provide sufficient notification to your municipality advising them that you plan to drill a borehole e.g. some municipalities require 14-30 day written notices stating your intention to drill and sink your borehole.
  4. In most cases municipalities will not charge you for drilling and sinking a borehole. Further, they may not charge for any water which is drawn from the borehole and utilised on your property. However, you might need to register your borehole with your municipality e.g. the eThekwini Municipality charges for the sewer generated based on the water drawn from the borehole.
  5. Water use is limited to reasonable domestic (household) use, this includes small gardens and yards but not use for commercial purposes. Domestic use can also mean for the grazing of livestock provided that the number of livestock on the land does not exceed the land’s grazing capacity. However, there is no maximum limit allocated to the amount of water that can be used for domestic purposes in terms of the National Water Act 36 of 1998
  6. It is possible to use borehole water without a license if it has been deemed lawfully permissible by the municipality. It is important to note that the National Water Act 36 of 1998 identifies three levels of water usage:
    • General authorisation water use – this water use is limited to reasonable domestic purposes. Water is measured in cubic metres per annum and is calculated based on the area/zone which the property is located, as well as the size of the property which you own. You are required to register this water use with the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry if you use more than 10 cubic metres per day from your borehole or you store more than 10 000 cubic metres per property owned.
    • License water use – this is for all types of use and consists of all amounts of use. You require a license and same may be granted by the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry where one needs to follow a stringent and rigorous application process.
    • Existing lawful water use – this for any person who utilised water from a borehole two years prior to the Water Act coming into effect, you will be regarded as having an ‘existing lawful water use’. This is considered to be an interim measure until one can apply for a water license. An investigation will be carried out on your property to ensure that the existing water use is and was deemed lawful, you may also request same on your ow accord.
  7. The municipality cannot and will not be held responsible for the quality of water from the borehole, the poor quality is on you. One should ensure that the quality is tested regularly to ensure that water is safe for drinking and any other household and/or commercial usage. Furthermore, the borehole must be well covered to ensure that you evade any lability for damages.

In conclusion, ensure that you consult an expert and find all the legal requirements and implications involved. Consult your local municipality in order to make informed decisions.


2 replies
  1. Kenneth Smart
    Kenneth Smart says:

    Hello, How do I find out if I can sink a borehole and use the ground water in Ramsgate, KZN without any approval from local or central authorities? The site is a Sectional title scheme with 80 residential units on several hectares of land and lots of irrigation needed for the gardens.

    • Randles
      Randles says:

      Good Day,

      Thank you for your enquiry on our article!

      Please note that our articles are for information purposes only and do not establish a client relationship nor constitute legal advice.

      In order to ensure that you receive tailored advice in response to your query, please contact us at to make an appointment with one of our legal practitioners who will assist further.

      Kind Regards,
      The Randles Team


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