It is approaching 20 years since South Africa’s legal transformation of its water regulatory framework. With the legal transformation, the traditional exclusive private law ownership-object approach to water resources evolved into a rights based approach. This transformation affected the property rights regime of South Africa whereby water resources are managed by elevating the public interest above any private interests in the resource, and defining the national government’s claim to the resource as fiduciary. This article seeks to determine whether or not the idea of ‘property in water resources’ may have contributed to the water crisis of the country; and to determine whether the transformed property regime in terms of the National Water Act offers solutions for some of the country’s persistent water problems.

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