It is evident that it is necessary to roll-out of a comprehensive plan to secure legal protection for all our water source areas, using a range of tools. Such a plan should include:
- Creating immediate protection for a network of water source areas, through the prohibition of or restrictions on new authorisations in terms of section 24(2A) of the National Environmental Management Act, ideally backed up by similar action under section 49(1)(a) of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act in the case of water source areas affected by mining.
- Prioritising and expediting the declaration of protected areas in line with national and relevant provincial protected areas expansion strategies that overlap with water source areas.
- In the medium term, developing regulations under section 26(1)(g) of the National Water Act prohibiting or regulating activities in order to protect water resources or instream or riparian habitats in water source areas.
- Advocating for the amendment of the National Water Act to empower the Minister of Water & Sanitation to identify geographical areas in which no water use may be authorised, by way of general authorisation, water use licence, or otherwise, subject to conditions.
- Also in the medium term, listing threatening activities or processes that cannot be undertaken in the already listed threatened ecosystems, where such threatened ecosystems occur within water source areas.
- In the long-term, consideration and incorporation of water source area protection in documents developed under the Conservational of Agricultural Resources Act, the Spatial Planning and Land-use Management Act and other land use planning and local development laws and guidelines.
Given the complexity and diversity of features and threats applicable to water source areas, such a plan should be based on a detailed analysis of each water source area, and identify the most appropriate legal tool or tools to secure legal protection for each water source area. Such process should have regard to the scope and nature of the legal mechanisms available in current statutes that could provide legal protection for water source areas, as well as the practical and political feasibility of the use of each of those mechanisms.