South Africa’s National Water Act, passed just four years after the country’s first democratic election, was hailed as one of the most progressive water policies in the world.
South Africa’s water allocations had long been unequal, favoring large-scale white farmers and depriving small-scale black farmers of needed water. The 1998 Act sought to both correct that imbalance and protect water resources by creating a water “reserve” to meet basic human needs and sustain healthy ecosystems. The ecological reserve specifies the quantity and quality of water that must be left in waterways, and builds off of the country’s constitutional right to environmental sustainability.
Despite its lauded goals, however, critics point out that it has yet to fully realize its potential.
Photo: The Lone Creek Waterfall, in the Sabie area, South Africa. Photo courtesy of Lukas Kaffer via Wikimedia Commons.