Guide to authors


Water SA is a multidisciplinary international journal publishing refereed original work on all aspects of water science, technology, engineering and policy.  This includes: water resource development; the hydrological cycle; surface hydrology; geohydrology, hydropedology and hydrometeorology; hydraulics; limnology; freshwater and estuarine ecology; salinisation; treatment and management of municipal and industrial water and wastewater; treatment and disposal of sewage sludge; environmental pollution control; environmental and drinking water quality; drinking water treatment; water services, including domestic water supply and sanitation services; agricultural water; aquaculture in terms of its impact on the water resource; water policy and governance; water economics; water as a social good.  The primary focus of the journal is on content that is relevant to the needs of the Southern African/SADC region, which includes research that is of broad international interest.  Submissions that are mainly or solely of interest within a single country will not be considered, except in the case of studies of particular importance to South Africa and/or its direct neighbours.

Contributions may take the form of a research paper, a critical review, a short communication, a rapid communication, a technical note or comments on papers already published.  A research paper is a comprehensive contribution to the subject, including introduction, experimental information and discussion of results.  (Technical accounts involving application of well-known techniques, and situation assessment/observation/sampling papers reporting results of work not carried out as a research activity, cannot be considered.)  A review is an authoritative, critical account of recent and current research in a specific field to which the author has made notable contributions.  A short communication is a concise account of new and significant findings to inform readers of preliminary or limited research results.  A rapid communication is an original contribution which merits prompt publication to publicise the findings of very recent research with immediate significance.  A technical note describes an original process or technique without necessarily including extensive data, theory or critical evaluation.  Comments on papers already published are sent to the authors of the paper for reply and both the comments and the authors’ reply will be published in the upcoming issue of Water SA. Preference is given to concise contributions.


Peer review
Manuscripts will be submitted to and assessed by peer reviewers.  A single-blind review system is used.  The authors’ names are included in the manuscript sent for peer review but the reviewers’ names are not included on the review reports sent to authors.  The evaluation of any manuscript is undertaken with the understanding that neither the substance of the article nor the figures or tables has been published or will be submitted for publication elsewhere during the period of review.  Authors bear sole responsibility for the factual accuracy of their publications.

Publication frequency
The journal is published quarterly (January, April, July, October) online at:  There is no print publication. 

Open access policy
Water SA is an open access journal and all content is available without charge to the user. The content of this journal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence.  Users are permitted to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search or link to the full texts of the articles in this journal under the terms of this Licence, without asking prior permission from the publisher or the author. 

The publisher's version of the article may be archived in an online repository. Archiving of pre-print and post-print (i.e. final draft post-refereeing) versions of articles in an online repository is not permitted except under special circumstances and with the written permission of the Editor.

Authors retain copyright in their submission but grant the Water Research Commission and Water SA a non-exclusive, irrevocable, worldwide licence to publish their manuscript under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence.  In submitting their manuscript, authors warrant that the content does not violate any existing common law or statutory copyrights.

Contributors to the paper identified as authors must meet both of the following criteria (those not meeting all criteria should merely be acknowledged): (i) substantial contribution to the conception or design of the study, or the collection, analysis or interpretation of data; (ii) writing or critically revising the paper. All authors are accountable for all aspects of the published work, and must approve the version of the paper submitted for review and final publication.

Plagiarism is the use of another's words or ideas without acknowledging the original source, and in so doing representing them as one's own original work.  Failure to correctly cite direct quotations or paraphrases of other published work (including one's own) is categorised as plagiarism, and unsuited to publication in Water SA.  The editors make use of iThenticate plagiarism detection software to assess similarity of submitted content with other publications, and submitted papers may be withdrawn from consideration for publication if any plagiarised content is found. 

Corrections and retractions
Once published, papers become part of the permanent scholarly record – changes to papers after publication are only permitted under exceptional circumstances and at the discretion of the Editor.  Changes to correct errors introduced by the journal or the authors will be published as Errata or Corrigenda, respectively, which will be linked to the original article online.  In cases of fraudulent, invalid or plagiarised results, papers may be retracted (original article is still accessible but with notice of retraction attached) or removed (only the article metadata and a notice of removal are still accessible).


Manuscripts, in English only, must be submitted online. Incomplete submissions or which do not comply with the instructions given in the Guide to Authors will be returned.

Cover letter
Each submission must be accompanied by a covering letter/e-mail, stating the name(s) and title(s) and contact details (e-mail) of each author, and giving a brief description of the paper indicating the originality and significance/contribution of the work reported. Any conflict of interest must be stated in the cover letter.

Recommendation of reviewers
Each submission must be accompanied by a separate document that lists the names, affiliations and contact details (e-mail) of at least four reviewers who are qualified to review the manuscript. Authors may also list reviewers who they wish not to be approached to review. Suggested reviewers should not have contributed to the manuscript or the research reported therein, and should not have a current or recent close association with any of the authors.  Editors are under no obligation to approach the suggested individuals to act as reviewers, and other reviewers may still be used.

Publishing agreement
A completed Publishing Agreement, signed by all authors, must be uploaded with the submission.  Submissions cannot be considered until the completed agreement has been received.  Should any changes in authorship be requested prior to publication this should be accompanied by a new Publishing Agreement.

Permission must be obtained from the copyright owner for the use of, figures, tables and other materials taken from previously published works that are not in the public domain, and the source mentioned in the figure or table legend. Authors are responsible for the payment of any copyright fee(s).

There are no fees for submission/publication and no article-processing charges.


Manuscript structure
The title should be concise and followed by authors’ names, ORCIDs (of at least the corresponding author), affiliations (at the time the research was conducted), and complete addresses.  A paper may be organised under main headings such as Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion (or Results and Discussion), Conclusions, Acknowledgements, Author contributions.  Sections and paragraphs should not be numbered and citations of tables and figures must not be hyperlinked.

Corresponding author
The author to whom all correspondence after publication should be addressed should be indicated, and their e-mail address given in a footnote on the title page. If the corresponding author's current affiliation or postal address differs from that at the time the research was conducted the current details should be given here.

Abstract and keywords
The paper must include an abstract of no more than 300 words, and at least 5 keywords. The abstract should give brief, factual information about the objectives, methods, results and conclusions of the work. References should not be cited in the abstract.

Methods: Ethical clearance
If the research reported on in the manuscript was conducted on vertebrates (human or non-human) then details must be provided on the necessary ethical considerations applied and the approval of the study by the relevant institutional ethics committee (name and any applicable reference number to be stated in the Methods section). In addition, all manuscripts describing research involving human subjects, tissue or data must also indicate that informed consent was obtained and that the principles of the Declaration of Helsinki were adhered to. All manuscripts describing research involving non-human animals must also indicate that the ARRIVE guidelines for reporting in vivo animal experiments were adhered to.

Any significant assistance provided in the conduct of the study or the production of the manuscript should be acknowledged in this section, in addition to any sources of funding. Authors will also be able to select funding bodies under the Funding field during the submission process.

Author contributions
The contribution of each author needs to be stated in this section, e.g., conceptualisation and methodology of the study, data collection and fieldwork, sample/data analysis, interpretation of results, writing of the initial draft, revision after review.

Deposition of new sequences and structures
The reporting of new or not previously reported structures or sequences (such as chemical and crystallographic structures, synthetic compounds, genes and proteins) must include the accession numbers of the relevant database in which they have been deposited. Details of the synthesis of new structures and compounds must also be given.

Published datasets must be cited within the manuscript and listed as references. A description of the dataset, including the format of the data and details of any software required to view it, must be included in the manuscript. Recognised repositories for general data include: DataverseDryadFigshareOpen Science Framework (for open data); and Zenodo.

Information, such as large tables and series of figures presenting supplementary data, can be included in an Appendix.  Tables and Figures in an Appendix must be numbered separately when referred to in the article (e.g. Table A1, Appendix).

Supplementary material
Supplementary material is information additional to but directly relevant to the article that cannot be included within the article for reasons of space or medium (such as videos). Various formats are allowed (e.g. Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, video files). The material is peer reviewed in conjunction with the article and must be submitted as supplementary material during online submission. Supplementary material must be numbered separately when referred to in the article (e.g. Supplementary Table 1).

Length restriction
The following restrictions apply for the total word count of submitted manuscripts (including the title, authors, affiliations, tables, and references):
- Paper; rapid communication: 8 000 words
- Review: 10 000 words (recommended)
- Short communication; technical note: 4 000 words

Proficiency in English
Authors who are unsure of correct English usage should consult a language editor or someone known to be proficient in scientific English for proofreading or editing assistance before submitting their manuscript for review.  Manuscripts in which the language use makes the content difficult to follow or which will require extensive language editing may be rejected on this basis.


Program, language and style
Manuscripts must be submitted in MS Word.  Water SA uses UK English and at the point of submission the choice of font, font size, and line spacing is at the authors' discretion.  Any hyperlinking of text to a place within the same MS Word document must be removed prior to submission.

Units, punctuation and spacing
The International System of Units (SI) applies. Technical and familiar abbreviations may be used, but must be defined if any doubt exists. A space should be used between the last digit and the unit of measure, except for % and ° (e.g., 10% and 5°C, but 13 MW). Water SA uses the symbol 'L' for litres. The decimal point is used (not the decimal comma), and thousands are marked with a space.  The 24-hour clock is used in the format hh:mm.

Variables and equations
All single-character variables should appear in italics. Variables which can be created in MS Word should be inserted in the text in this format, and not using equation-building software. All equations should be numbered sequentially in Arabic numerals.

Tables should be inserted in the text (as MS Word tables, not image files) in their appropriate positions and numbered sequentially in Arabic numerals (Table 1). A short but adequate descriptive caption for each table must be provided.

Figures should be inserted in the text in the appropriate position, and, where applicable, should also be submitted as separate files in their original format (e.g. Excel, TIFF, JPEG). Scanned figures of low resolution (less than 300 dpi) are not acceptable.

Authors are responsible for the accuracy of references. References should be cited in the text as follows: Smith (1982) or (Smith, 1982). Where there are more than two authors, the first author’s name followed by 'et al.' (not italicised) should be used. Footnotes are not allowed, except for tables. All references should be listed alphabetically in the 'References' section at the end of the manuscript. The names of the first 10 authors should be listed in full, followed by 'and co-authors' in the case of references with more than 10 authors. DOIs must be included for all references for which these are available. Use the free Link References service provided by CrossRef to simultaneously look up DOIs for your entire reference list. Examples of the required reference format are as follows:

Journal article:
MCCAFFERTY JR, ELLENDER BR, WEYL OLF and BRITZ PJ (2012) REVIEW: The use of water resources for inland fisheries in South Africa. Water SA 38 (2) 327–334.
DAVIES B and DAY J (1998) Vanishing Waters. UCT Press, Cape Town. 487 pp.
Chapter in a book:
SHIKLOMANOV I (1993) World fresh water resources. In: Gleick PH (ed.) Water in Crisis: A Guide to the World's Fresh Water Resources. Oxford University Press, New York.
SMITH B (2000) Low-flow hydraulics used to assess environmental flows for rivers. PhD thesis, University of the Witwatersrand.
Conference proceedings:
FORESTI E (2001) Anaerobic treatment of domestic sewage: established technologies and perspectives. In: Proceedings of the 9th World Congress on Anaerobic Digestion – Anaerobic Conversion for Sustainability, 2–6 September 2001, Antwerp.
Internet sources:
Internet references should be cited as normal and referenced in full in the 'References' section, giving the title of the page, the URL and the date accessed. For example:
World Health Organization (2018) World Health Organization. URL: (Accessed 10 December 2018).
Personal communications:
Personal communications should be cited as normal and referenced in full in the 'References' section, giving the date of the communication and the full name, affiliation and postal address of the person communicated with.
ROBERTS J (2010) Personal communication, 17 January 2010. Dr John Roberts, Department of Water, Central Province, South Africa, 9817.


If revision has been recommended after review, the revised manuscript should be submitted for consideration within 6 months of receipt of the review recommendations, failing which the manuscript will be considered to have been withdrawn. All authors must give their approval for submission of the revised manuscript. Submission of revised manuscripts must be accompanied by a detailed document outlining the authors' response to each of the reviewers' comments and the corresponding changes that have been made to the text.

Approval of copyediting and galley proofs prior to publication
Corresponding authors will be required to provide feedback on the copy-edited manuscript prior to layout, and to proofread the PDF copy of the laid-out article prior to online publication. Corrections to proofs should be restricted to typesetting errors. If the author has not requested any corrections within 7 days of receipt of the proof then the journal may proceed with publication.