Hundreds of residents of Motupa village in Bolobedu are without drinking water because the main pipeline to their area has been overloaded with illegal connections.
Residents said the problem had been going on for the past three years.
They said they had been forced to buy water from "water thieves" who illegally diverted water to their yards and stored it in tanks for sale.
A resident, who wanted to remain anonymous, said they were forced to buy water from these crooks because they had no choice.
The main line is supposed to distribute bulk water from the Thapane Dam, a few kilometres from the area, to the reservoir that at Motupa.
According to a Greater Tzaneen municipal councillor for the area Masilo Maloko some families had illegally connected their own pipelines from the plastic main line to their yards and were selling water to desperate families.
Maloko said the "water thieves" charged R1 for a 20- litre container.
He said he tried to stop some of the villagers from connecting the water illegally but they had verbally abused him until he called the police.