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Water management, policies and legislation related to water use in agriculture


The Ministry of Natural Resources and Energy (MNRE) is responsible for assessment, monitoring, management and allocation of water resources in the country. It has several branches responsible for specific activities. The Water Resource Branch (WRB) is responsible for stream flow observation, planning of water resources and control of pollution, while the Rural Water Supply Branch is responsible for water supply and sanitation in rural areas. The Groundwater Unit of the Geological Surveys and Mines Branch is responsible for drilling boreholes and monitoring the withdrawal of underground water. The Swaziland Water Service Corporation, a parastatal organization, is responsible for urban and peri-urban water supply and sanitation. The Swaziland Environment Authority (SEA) is responsible for pollution control and allocation of compliance certificates after proponents of development projects have submitted environmental impact assessment reports and comprehensive mitigation plans. The Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives constructs small earth dams and assists farmers with the utilization of water resources.

Policies and legislation

Swaziland does not have a clear policy on water use and management. The overall management of water resources is on an ad hoc basis through several uncoordinated pieces of legislation, spread among a number of Ministries as well as other institutions outside the government, that are aimed at solving specific issues without due consideration of harmonization. These Acts include the Protection of Freshwater Fish Act of 1938, the Swaziland Electricity Act of 1963, the Water Act of 1967, the Water Services Act of 1992, the Komati River Basin Water Resources Development and Utilization Act of 1992, the Joint Water Commission Act of 1992, the Swaziland Environmental Authority Act of 1992, the Swaziland Administrative Order of 1998 and the Borehole Act of the Geological Surveys and Mines, to name a few.

At present, landowners with title deeds on riparian lands are entitled, by virtue of the deed, to abstract water from the stream flowing alongside or within their properties as well as underground water. The Water Act of 1967 (Swaziland Government, 1967) is the main legislation that regulates the apportioning and use of water but it only applies to title deed land and thus excludes all communal land, which constitutes 54 percent of total land in Swaziland.

The Swaziland Environmental Authority Act (Swaziland Government, 1992) addresses the issues of water for the environment and pollution control. The Act includes provisions for the establishment of standards and guidelines related to the pollution of air, water and land, as well as for the control of all forms of environmental pollution including that caused by the discharge of toxic wastes into the air, water and land.

The Swaziland Administration Order of 1998 empowers the Ngwenyama (King in Council) to issue orders to be followed in Swazi Nation Land and can be used as a tool for managing water resources in communal land. Among other things, these orders require:

  • the prevention of any pollution of the water in, or injury to, any dam, stream, watercourse, waterhole, well, borehole, or other water supplies and to prevent the obstruction of any stream or watercourse for the construction, improvement or maintenance of communal water supplies;
  • measures to be taken to secure proper housing and sanitation;
  • regulation of the provision, maintenance and use of communal water supplies.

The National Development Strategy (NDS) intends to formulate a Vision and Mission Statement with appropriate strategies for socio-economic development for the next 25 years and to provide a guide for the formulation of development plans and for the equitable allocation of resources. It is designed to strengthen the Government’s development planning and management capacities and to have a national consensus on the direction of future developments in the country. The NDS addresses the issue of water resources development and gives several recommendations (National Development Strategy, 1999). It advocates the development of an overall policy to cover all water uses, the expansion of smallholder irrigation within a national irrigation development plan whilst encouraging farmers to utilize all available water catchments, and planning and constructing small to medium size dams to provide a reliable source of water for small-scale irrigation, livestock, fisheries and municipal use.


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       Quote as: FAO. 2016. AQUASTAT website. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Website accessed on [yyyy/mm/dd].
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