An intensive review of existing Water Law has just been conducted by the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry. The review was motivated by the need for preparation for new legislation to support water resource management with a goal of “some for all, forever.” The development of a water resource protection policy was begun in that review. This paper describes the major aspects of the policy at one point in a process of rapid development. Initial proposals are to use the concept of ecological integrity as an indicator of sustainable use of the resource. While management's goal is to ensure all water users will benefit from access to the water resource, ecological integrity provides a good indication of sustainability in the use of the resource. More discussion in this paper is, therefore, centred on ecological integrity than on individual water users under the assumption that the resource will only be able to provide for long term water uses if ecological integrity is assured. A water Reserve has been defined that is intended to protect water resources, so basic human needs can be met and ecological functions and processes can be sustained. Components of ecological integrity, that is, the chemical and physical characteristics of water, the quantity and assurance of water, the habitat (instream and riparian), and the structure and function of the associated biotic communities would be assessed through the use of a resource classification system. The approach integrates resource-directed measures for protection (such as resource quality objectives) with source-directed measures (such as effluent standards).

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