Boreholes – what you need to know

Do you have a borehole? Not sure what steps to follow or if there are any laws around them?

Well, you’ve come to the right place!

The recent water crisis in Cape Town no doubt has effected the rest of the country, even in cities like Johannesburg, where we are still finding ways to manage our resources in a sustainable manner.

So, with that said, the Municipality are prompting the use of borehole water as an alternative to the municipal supply, which will then alleviate the pressure on the municipalities.

Boreholes are becoming more and more common as a use of the main supply of water, and are being especially promoted in new developments outside of city limits.

So, do you need any authority or license to drill a borehole?

Well, that is all dependent on where you live.

If you are inside the jurisdiction of the city of Johannesburg, then you don’t need any permission to drill a borehole, but you might need to give notice to your municipality in terms of Section 41 of the COJ’s Public Health Bylaws provide that persons in Johannesburg need to give the municipality 14 days’ written notice of their intention to sink a borehole.

But if you are in jurisdiction of Ekurhuleni Municipality, then you do need permission from the municipality in terms of Section 85 of the Ekurhuleni Municipality‘s Water Bylaws.

If I already have a borehole, do I need to register it?

Long story short, yes.

National Water Act 36 of 1998 describes 3 ‘levels’ of water usage:

  • Schedule 1 Water Use

Not for commercial use. Water that is limited to reasonable domestic use.

Used for water for grazing animals provided that the number of animals on the land does not exceed the land’s grazing capacity, then no, you do not need to register you water use.

  • General Authorisation Water Use.


If you own or are lawfully living on land and using water from a borehole, you can use the amount specified in the General Authorisation published in Government notice 399 published in Gazette 26187 on 26 March 2004.

The amount the you can use is measured in cubic meters per annum and is calculated based on which area (or ‘zone’) the property is located in, and the size of the property (measured in hectares). However, you only need to register this water use with the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry if you use more than 10 cubic metres from a borehole on any one day, or you store more than 10 000 cubic metres of water per property. If your use or storage capacity is less than this, you don’t need to register.

  • Licensed Use.
    For all types of uses, and all amounts of usage not covered by Schedule 1 and the General Authorisation, you need a water use licence.

Do I pay anything to the municipality for water if I have a borehole?

In COJ’s jurisdiction, you won’t pay for the water drawn from the borehole, but you might be charged for sewer generated based on the water drawn.

Ekurhuleni Municipality, however, reserves the right to install a meter to measure how much is drawn from the borehole, but doesn’t charge anything for water drawn or effluent generated as a result of the borehole at present.

Who is responsible for the quality of the water that comes out of the borehole?

Well, that’s easy. You are.

You should have the quality of the borehole water tested regularly to ensure that it is safe for domestic use.

Is my borehole a danger?

Well, it can be. You need to ensure that your borehole is covered so that no animal or human can fall into it. If any person or animal is injured in this manner, you will be held liable for damages.

Financial implications.

In most cases, a municipality will not charge you anything for the water drawn from a borehole. However. there are costs associated with the sinking of the borehole, i.e. drilling, electricity needed to pump and the pump’s insurance.

Our thoughts though, are that whenever you consider sinking or using a borehole, an expert should always be consulted.

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