Towards a classification system of significant water resources with a case study of the Thukela river.
The increasing demand for water to provide for South Africa's growing population has resulted in increasing pressure being placed on the country's limited water resources. Water developments however cannot be undertaken without considering the water resource base and the key policy frameworks that governs its use and protection. The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry as the custodian of water resources in the country initiated the implementation of the National Water Act during 1999. It has therefore the mandate to ensure that the protection, use, development, conservation, management and control of water resources be achieved in an equitable, efficient and sustainable manner, to the benefit of society at large. The National Water Act prescribes that the Minister of the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry develop a system for the classification of all significant water resources to ensure its protection and sustainable utilisation. The classification system is to be used to determine the class and resource quality objectives of all significant water resources. In the absence of a formal classification system, a framework was developed through this research study in order to guide both the development of a classification system and the implementation, hence ensuring an overarching structure within which intergrated water resource management can be achieved. The main goal of this framework was to seek an appropriate balance between protecting significant water resources and at the same time promoting water resource utilisation in support of socio-economic development. This framework was executed in the preliminary determination of the Reserve for the Thukela River catchment to ensure that informed and calculated decision-making processes are followed once significant water resources are classified.