KZN farmer fined over R1.7m for illegal water use

Monday, December 5, 2022

The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) is persisting in its course to ensure that water users involved in unauthorised and illegal use of water resources are brought to book.

A farmer in Escourt has been fined over R1.7 million by the department for illegally abstracting water from Wagendrift Dam to irrigate his crops without a water use licence.

The owner of Redlands Farm, Roy Clifford Braithwaite, was illegally taking water from Wagendrift Dam to irrigate crops that are on the Redlands Farm. The farm is situated upstream of Wagendrift Dam

The dam, which is under Bushmans River Government Water Scheme in the Pongola-Mtamvuma Catchment Management Area, provides water for domestic water supply, agriculture (irrigation) and industrial demands for Estcourt and Weenan.

A water use licence is a document that is issued by the department in terms of Chapter 4 of the National Water Act (Act 36 of 1998), which allows the user to undertake an activity triggered in terms of Section 21 of the Water Act.

Section 21 says a user is required to apply for authorisation to take water from a water resource to use for any commercial activity.

The department’s Director of Compliance, Monitoring and Enforcement, Thandi Mopai, said the farmer was found to have contravened Section 21 of the Water Act after the department uncovered an abstraction point on the bank of a dam with no flow meter and that it was illegally pumping water into Redlands Farm for irrigation of crops using centre pivots.

Mopai said a Notice of Intention and a directive instructing the farmer to halt operation of abstracting water was issued after it was found that the farmer did not have permission to use the water.

However, she said the farmer did not stop the activity, which necessitated the department to take legal steps, using court route to force compliance.

“The farmer, through his legal representation, approached the department and agreed to pay an admission of guilt administrative fine of R1 770 392.75 within 45 days to avoid criminal charges. Through the Escourt Magistrate Court, the farmer was issued with an order to pay the fine within the set period, counted from 24 November 2022.

“On 24 November 2022, the Estcourt Magistrate court issued the accused with an order to pay an administrative fine of R 1 770 392.75 to the department's main account, which was provided. A mediation agreement was signed after receiving proof of payment and the order made by the magistrate on the same day,” Mopai said.

Mopai warned that the department will continue in its efforts to root out illegal and unauthorised water use, as it impacts negatively on the livelihood of the people in as far as water provision is concerned. -