National Wetland Offset Guidelines

This guideline provides a comprehensive approach for reducing potential impacts on wetlands.

The guideline links directly to spatial biodiversity information and includes methodologies for wetland offset site selection, compensation ratios and hectare equivalents used to determine the size and functionality of wetland offset. Although the offset guidelines have been driven by the urgent need for consistent offset guidelines for the mining sector, the guidelines are applicable for all sectors.

The guidelines have been developed in a collaborative effort between the South African National Biodiversity Institute and the Department of Water Affairs, with the financial support of a coal industry body called CoalTech who represents most of the big coal mining houses, Water Research Commission and the GEF Grasslands Programme. It covers the following:

  • The legal framework and policy principles: describing national and international standards and guidelines on offsets, the South African legal context and existing policies, strategies and guidelines for offsets in South Africa, and other legislative issues including roles and responsibilities of the various parties.
  • Assessing impacts on wetlands in order to identify wetland offset requirements: describing in detail how to calculate the size and value of the offset including assessing offset requirements for water resources & ecosystem services, ecosystem conservation and species of special concern as well as the complex system of calculating hectare equivalents.
  • Assessing offset receiving site for water resources and ecosystem services: describing the identification of the receiving site (where the offset is to happen), site assessment of the site in terms of requirements for water resources and ecosystem services, ecosystem conservation and species of special concern, and adjustment of the offset contribution to account for increased offset security and implementation risk.
  • Implementing a wetland offset: describing the planning and implementation requirements necessary for an offset in order to ensure that is meets specific offset requirements. It deals with standard requirements for any wetland offsets, how to compile a wetland offset report, how to develop of a wetland offset management plan, how to develop a monitoring plan and its submission, review and approval, the implementation and monitoring of the plan and finally, verification and sign off procedures.

The Guide is accompanied by the Wetlands Offset Calculator, which is an Excel spreadsheet that helps the applicant to determine the wetland offset targets and assess potential gains for the receiving area in terms of contribution to wetland functionality targets, ecosystem conservation targets, species conservation targets. It is a tool that companies can use in the early planning stages of their mining or other operations, to assess risks involved. (To learn more about how to apply the wetlands calculator, click here.)

The guideline, which is becoming the official Department of Water Affairs endorsed standard for developing wetland offsets, is available here as a SANBI Technical document or the Department of Water Affairs.

Should you be experiencing difficulties in downloading the publication, please contact Kennedy Nemutamvuni at k.nemutamvuni[at]