Following the first democratic, free and fair elections, held in 1994, numerous changes were made to legislation in order to correct the injustices of the past. One of the most fundamental changes in the political landscape, particularly from an economic and environmental perspective, was the Water Act (1998), which shifted ownership of water rights from the individual to the state, who act as custodians for the people. While the economy of South Africa is by far the largest in southern Africa, with steady growth since 1994; the government is subject to increasing demand for water to meet the needs of the population and the key economic sectors, while faced with limited, if not dwindling water resources. The Orange-Senqu River and the associated water transfer and impoundment infrastructure, play a vital role in sustainable development in central and western South Africa, particularly Gauteng Province.
A large portion of the water resources utilised in Gauteng is provided by the Lesotho Highlands Water Project and is piped and transferred to the upper Vaal basin, where it supports mining, industry, agriculture and domestic water supplies.
Key indicators and data
Sources: Statistics South Africa (2001), Globalis GVU UNEP (2009), World Factbook (2009), BBC Monitoring (2009), UNHDR (2008);