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Boreholes and windmills


A borehole is an expensive investment. Make sure you do your homework.

  • It is advisable to ask for references preferably from clients who have had time to assess the quality of work over a reasonable period.
  • The drilling contractor can never guarantee that he will strike water, and therefore it is the client who is at risk for cost of the borehole, regardless of whether it is wet or dry.
  • It is in your best interest to sign a contract that details all the costs that are likely to be incurred. Bear in mind, though, that the drilling contractor cannot be expected to say beforehand what the borehole will cost in total. There are many unknowns to consider such as the borehole’s final depth, the amount required and the time taken for its development.
  • Insist that the driller provide a record of the exact depth at which the most promising water fissure is located. This information is of vital importance to the pump installer so that he can select the correct pump for your needs.
  • You may wish to sell your farm or property at a later stage, and the borehole represents a substantial capital investment. A driller’s log, construction certificate, yield test certificate, electrical clearance, pump details and commissioning data will be positive proof of the professionalism of the contractor.
  • Is he/she a member of the Borehole Water Association of Southern Africa (BWA)? Membership of BWA shows that the contractor/supplier you are dealing with is interested in the long-term viability, professionalism and survival of the industry.
  • The local municipality/council may require that permission be obtained to sinking a borehole. This is normally little more than a formality.
  • The minimum specifications of most banks in South Africa for granting a bond on property not supplied with mains water, e.g. farm houses, plots and smallholdings, is that a yield certificate be supplied by a recognised pump installer that states that the borehole on the property is capable of yielding a constant flow of water from the borehole of a minimum of 1500 litres over a 24 hour period. They are also required to supply proof that the water is hygienically safe for human consumption.
  • There are SABS standards now available for the ground water industry.

More detailed information is available from the Borehole Water Association. Included in its offerings is the publication A Layman’s Guide to Borehole Ownership.


Wind driven water supply schemes for communities require three basic items:


Wind. Wind data is available in most parts of the world, even in remote rural areas. Windmills can be so designed that they can pump water in the lightest or strongest winds. In light wind areas the cost of pumping water with windmills will increase. As a generalisation, windmills are most economic in areas where the wind speed exceeds 10 km/hr for a period exceeding eight hours per day.


Water. Underground water is available in most parts of the world at varying depths. Windmills are capable of pumping water from surface water sources over long distances or from great depths of up to 200 metres underground or even more with special windmill configurations. Windmill pumping schemes should be designed so that they never extract more than 70 percent of the tested well yield.


Community buy-in. If this is a community project, rule one is that the local populace must see the real need for clean potable water. Without this need, any water supply system will fail. This is the most important rule of windmill water supply and is the most neglected part of the installation process.


Source: Southern Cross Industries

Local business environment

See also the general “Water page in the “Issues here and beyond our borders” section.

Find the article by Anna Mouton, “Understanding groundwater in South Africa: Groundwater, aquifers and boreholes” at It deals with the topic under the following headings (1) What are aquifers? (2) How much groundwater do we have? (3) Factors affecting water yield, (4) Success with boreholes.

National strategy and government contacts

A three-tier system is applied for the use of groundwater.


  • Schedule 1 user: No registration is needed if the volume of water used is less than 10m3/day
  • Schedule 2 user: Allocations are determined by water catchment area and property size. Registration can be done on the DWS website and usually takes a few days to be approved (farmers who keep livestock and irigate small areas usually fall into this category)
  • Schedule 3 user: Water usage exceeds 40 000m3/year or is above the general authorisation limit, and a water licence is required. This takes about 300 days to complete. You will need a drilling certificate which stipulatesthe depth and diametre of the borehole, the rock formationj in which the hole was drilled, and the type of construction done to keep the borehole safe (do not pay a driller until he has given you this certificate). The water has to be analysed according to SANS 10299. Satellite technology and remote sensing is used to validate water usuage. Flow and depth meters to monitor fluctuating water levels and water usage have to be installed on every borehole.


Source: Kriel, G. 2018. “Get your water licensing in order, farmers urged”. Farmer’s Weekly, 15 June.

Department of Water & Sanitation

Using groundwater (along with surface water) will be a key part of solving South Africa’s looming water-stressed status. Find the National Groundwater Strategy. Also on this website, find contact details for Groundwater Offices (national and provincial), documents and strategy, links and more. Because of the predominantly hard rock nature of the South African geology, only about 20% of groundwater occurs in major aquifer systems. Groundwater contributes 9% of the country’s water resources and plays a crucial role, especially in rural water supply.

Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD)

Directorate: Infrastructure Support Tel: 012 319 846 8502

Further reference:

Role players

Note: Click to expand the headings below. To get a free listing on our website like the ones below, visit here for more information or place your order hereDisclaimer: The role player listings are not vetted by this website.

Borehole Water Association of Southern Africa (BWA) – The BWA is a non-profit, professional and trade organisation representing all aspects of the groundwater industry. Included in their membership are central and local government departments, leading enterprises who manufacture drilling, pumping, electronic and ancillary equipment, professional consultants, contractors and interested individuals. Water Talk is an electronic newsletter sent out by them, which keeps members informed of current items of interest in the groundwater industry.
South African National Bottled Water Association (SANBWA) – SANBWA is the recognised body of the bottled water industry. The association was formed in an effort to ensure the quality standards of members and protect the consumer against misrepresentation from within the industry.

Further reference:

Websites and publications

Refer to the websites listed earlier on this page.

  • Find the many links on the Borehole Water Association (BWA) website, The BWA also puts out publications like a Membership Directory, the Borehole Water Journal and Groundwater: A Layman’s Guide To Borehole Ownership.
  • Call 012 842 4017 or email iaeinfo [at] for the following publications, available from the ARC in Silverton: (i) Grondwatersensors (ii) Groundwater sensors.
  • Groundwater is invisible, but its impact is visible everywhere (FAO, 2022). Available at
  • Nel, M. 2017. Groundwater: The myths, the truths and the basics. Pretoria: Water Research Commission. This and many other publications are available at
  • The first quantitative continent-wide maps of aquifer storage and potential borehole yields in Africa based on an extensive review of available maps, publications and data were done in 2012. Find Quantitative maps of groundwater resources in Africa at
  • Find the article “Build your own windmill” at
  • Read about the various Water for Schools programmes that are run. A number of schools have had a borehole drilled to provide clean water for pupils –
  • SADC Groundwater Management Institute
  • – International Association of Hydrogeologists, the worldwide groundwater organisation
  • Find the World Health Organization’s Guidelines for drinking-water quality and other documents at


Some articles

Sources for the chapter: Southern Cross Industries, the Borehole Water Association

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