Sustainability, equity and efficiency are identified as central guiding principles in the protection, use, development, conservation, management and control of water resources. These principles recognise the basic human needs of present and future generations, the need to protect water resources, the need to share some water resources with other countries, the need to promote social and economic development through the use of water, and the need to establish suitable institutions in order to achieve the purpose of the National Water Act (Act No. 36 of 1998). To be able to implement the National Water Act (NWA), the Minister needs to ensure that the tools and expertise required to implement the Act are available. The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) set about developing the required methods and procedures to comply with the provisions set out in the Act. The classification of a resource is the starting point of the process.
The Reserve, a provision in the Act that requires water to be set aside for basic human needs and aquatic ecosystems before allocation to other users, is based on classification. Protection measures that cannot be accommodated in the Reserve are accommodated in resource quality objectives which are based on both the classification and the Reserve. This approach is particularly relevant to groundwater, since the Reserve only relates to basic human needs and aquatic ecosystems and does not make provision for the protection of resources that are not linked to these uses. As part of addressing this issue, software was developed to assist in resource assessments, with the focus on all three components that need to be assessed. A case study is used to demonstrate how the software can be used to assist in resource assessments.