Regulation and use of water resources in Uganda

Did you know that anybody abstracting water from a lake, river or underground using a motorized pump; discharging wastewater into the environment; involved in drilling for water; or construction of dams and other structures on water bodies is required to apply for a water permit according to the Water Act? If not then read more below or download the document here.


Depletion, wastage and pollution of water resources of Uganda is on the increase and is attributed mainly to rapid population growth, poor land use/ management, growing urbanization, growing industrialization, poor environmental sanitation, and poor solid and liquid waste management. Emerging economic activities such as floriculture, horticulture, fish farming and oil exploration are exerting extra strain on the country’s water resources. While activities in the catchments are depleting and degrading the water resources thereby reducing the amount of water available for use, there is a growing demand for water of adequate quantity and suitable quality for social-economic activities such as drinking, agriculture, industry, recreation and
ecotourism. This comes against the backdrop of climate change that is leading to disasters in form of droughts and floods. The frequency of these extreme weather events is increasingly becoming more regular.

In order to control water depletion and pollution as well as mitigation of climate change impacts, government put in place an enabling legal framework in form of The Water Act, Cap 152, and the accompanying regulations: Water Resources Regulations (1998), Waste Discharge Regulations (1998). In addition the Environment Act, with its accompanying Regulations: Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations 1998; The National Environment (Standards for Discharge of Effluent into Water or on Land) Regulations 1999, and the National Environment (Waste Management) Regulations of 1999 were put in place to ensure sustainable use of environment and natural resources across the country. The Water Act has been under
implementation by the Ministry of Water and Environment since 1998 when the various laws and regulations were operationalised.

The Directorate of Water Resources Management of the Ministry of Water and Environment is responsible for implementing the provisions of the Water Act related to regulating water abstraction and discharge of waste water into the environment. It does this through water use allocation (abstraction and waste water discharge), water service regulation (drilling, construction, dam safety, easement), compliance monitoring and enforcement of water laws, review of Environmental Impacts Assessment reports related to water and awareness raising and information dissemination.

The directorate processes permits to regulate abstraction of water using motorized pumps and canals; discharging wastewater in the environment; drilling for water; construction of dams and also reviews EIAs reports related to water resources. Before a permit for any use is issued the applicant must provide some specific information on their planned operations. This ensures sustainable allocation of the available water resources for the different uses; and collection and storage of knowledge on the available water resources for the present and future use.

The permits are issued for periods not exceeding 5 years with standard and site specific conditions and these must be strictly adhered to by the permit holder. Annual fees for use of water resources and discharge of wastewater have to be paid and these are documented in schedules to the Water Resources Regulations 1998 and Wastewater discharge Regulations 1998 published in the Uganda gazette. Read the whole article here: