Preliminary results following the discovery of a fresh water resource in Beaufort West by the Council for Geoscience indicate that the water is of good quality for drinking and other uses, the Department of Mineral Resources has confirmed.
The resource was found while research on the development of shale gas was being conducted, it emerged this week.
Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane said the water resource brings "huge relief" to the drought-stricken town and province.
He applauded the "application of science in delivering much-needed solutions to society".
Zwane had directed the Council for Geoscience to conduct a baseline study to "enable government to make informed decisions on the balance of science-based evidence on the development of shale gas resources" in the Karoo.
Geological mapping, ground and airborne geophysical surveys, hydrogeological monitoring and environmental screening has already been concluded by a geoscientific team from the council.
"The water boreholes intended for the baseline studies and future monitoring of the water resource have also been used to pilot the casing methods to ensure maximum protection of the water resource in the Karoo," spokesperson Fidel Hadebe said in a statement.
The final characterisation of, among others, the quality, quantity and aquifer parameters of the five boreholes is expected to be completed by the end of January.
"The research work will be done in stages in order to minimise the potential impact of drilling to the environment. In due course, the boreholes will be officially handed to the municipality to ensure that the people of Beaufort West and nearby communities can have access to water," Hadebe said.
The department had not yet responded to questions about its location, capacity and how fracking plans would affect it by the time of publishing.
Beaufort West ran out of dam water in November and is reliant on boreholes and its sewage purification plant.