Water and the public trust doctrine – a South African perspective

19 January 2011

The legal principles concerning rights to water have been changed considerably by the provisions of the National Water Act 36 of 1998. The National Water Act aims to redistribute water rights to previously disadvantaged people and communities by the introduction and application of a public trust doctrine to South African natural resources law. It is proposed that these legislative measures will ensure that water as a natural resource will be used to the benefit of the nation as a whole. However, the practical application of the public trust doctrine needs to be analysed, especially with the view of determining the actual benefits to poor and deprived people.