Discharge of water containing waste emanating from land to the marine environment: A water quality management perspective

  • SHH Oelofse
  • P Viljoen
  • S Taljaard
  • WAM Botes


The National Water Act, 1998 (Act 36 of 1998) mandates the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry to manage all water containing waste (wastewater), which emanates from land-based sources and which directly impact on the marine environment. These sources include sea outfalls, storm water drains, canals, rivers and diffuse sources of pollution. To date there are many places where wastewater is being discharged into the sea. More than forty sea outfalls are formalised through authorisations issued in terms of the old Water Act, 1956 (Act 54 of 1956) and the National Water Act, 1998 (Act 36 of 1998). In order to protect water quality, effluent standards were applied under the old Water Act to discharges into the water resource. However, the National Water Act, 1998 follows a receiving water quality objectives approach recognising differences in the assimilative capacity of different resources. Both approaches have the same main objective namely to maintain the resource at a quality fit for use by other users. The same principle applies to discharges to the marine environment. In addition, South Africa, as a signatory to a number of international Conventions and treaties such as the London Convention, is committed to certain requirements pertaining to the disposal of waste at sea. To meet such requirements, a very clear policy on what could be allowed for discharge to sea is required for South Africa. Such a policy should be very clear on what is allowed, why it is allowed and the conditions that apply for such discharges in order for this country to retain international credibility. In this paper the authors provide a concise discussion on: • The development of an operational policy providing the strategic view on marine disposal, as well as the goal, basic principles, ground rules and management framework that will be applied to the discharge of land-derived wastewater to the marine environment; and • Overview of procedures to guide authorities and managers in terms of the administrative and institutional responsibilities in dealing with land-derived wastewater discharges to the marine environment of South Africa.br>
Water SA Vol. 30 (5) 2005: pp.56-60

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eISSN: 0378-4738