The process for water use licence applications (WULAs) is improving as a result of an online system being put in place by the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), according to SRK Consulting principal environmental scientist Jacky Burke.
Burke, the leader of SRK’s WULA Group, hosted a workshop on WULA last month, and comments that “water is a complex field and everyone involved is on a steep learning curve with the stringent new licensing system”.
However, she points out that SRK is confident that, by sharing experiences and continuing to receive guidance from the DWS, it can help clients improve compliance and reduce operational and closure liability costs.
Last month’s workshop focused on the new Electronic Water Use Licence Application and Authorisation System (EWULAAS), and highlighted the value of early financial and time investments in a WULA to reduce costs later on.
Experts also outlined how applications could benefit from the DWS’s more streamlined and manageable process and explained where and how challenges were being experienced.
SRK senior environmental scientist Avril Owens emphasised that the Web-based EWULAAS was user friendly and followed a logical flow process in three key steps: a preapplication phase; a supporting document and water use form online-submission phase; and a technical report and specialist information submission phase, whereafter the DWS would make a decision.
“The EWULAAS certainly promises to be a great improvement on the original paper-based system,” said Owens, noting that among the advantages was the ability to generate a summary of water uses prior to Phase 1 submission, resulting in improved efficiency, as well as the ability to track the process online, thus ensuring better transparency.
She noted that there were teething issues, but stressed that SRK maintained close working links with the DWS to help ensure that the system worked optimally. “There is no doubt that this is a better way to go – with applicants knowing that all the information is there, that nothing can get lost, and that the process can be tracked,” Owens said.
She emphasised the importance of the preapplication phase, in which applicants met with the DWS to clarify the way forward, as most of the preparation work would be completed before the online submission process could begin.
Highlighting the type and scale of activity to be undertaken, SRK principal environmental scientist Didi Masoabi said it was important for applicants to be aware that site-specific environmental- impact assessments and specialist studies might need to be conducted.
“Public participation is also an important element of a WULA, as interested and affected parties need to be informed about what you plan to do and how it may impact them,” said Masoabi.
Further, she noted: “Depending on the size of the project, the DWS may need more information on how you intend to communicate with the public about your project.”
The workshop included presentations by SRK environmental scientists Giulia Barr, Angelika Möhr and Björn Schroder, as well as Scientific Aquatic Services-accredited aquatic biomonitoring specialist Stephen van Staden.
Burke says it is vital for WUL applicants to have the findings of their studies thoroughly reviewed by experts to minimise the potential of unreasonable conditions being imposed by the regulator.
Further, she notes that the SRK WULA team is geared to tackle complex projects within the evolving environmental legislative framework. “We work with clients on projects from concept stage through to closure, providing services such as integrated WULAs, general authorisation applications, WUL amendment applications, and WUL audits,” she concludes.