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Surface Water Grants

The surface water grant program provides cost-sharing grants for surface water protection and restoration. Funding is available for education, ecological assessments, planning, implementation, and aquatic invasive species prevention and control. With many different projects eligible for grant funding, you can support surface water management at any stage: from organization capacity development to project implementation.

Learn about available surface water grants and find out if you meet the requirements to apply by downloading the complete Surface Water Grant Program Applicant Guide and Program Guidance. This document will help you understand what makes an eligible project and outline how to apply for funding, manage your project, and seek reimbursement. In addition, the tabs below outline basic information that will help you navigate to the appropriate section with the guidance document and other helpful resources.

Surface Water Grant Program Applicant Guide and Program Guidance

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Who is Eligible?

» Counties, municipalities, natural resource agencies, tribal governing bodies, other local units of government, accredited colleges, universities, technical schools, lake districts, and town sanitary districts are automatically eligible to apply for a Surface Water Grant

Qualified lake associations, qualified surface water management organizations, qualified river management organizations, nonprofit conservation organizations, and qualified school districts must apply for eligibility before applying for a surface water grant. Under NR 193 code, nonprofit organizations will need to reapply as Surface Water Management Organizations before receiving a grant.

Eligibility application

By May 1 of each year, the applicant should establish their eligibility for grant funding by submitting Grant Eligibility Application Form 8700-380 and supporting documentation to their regional environmental grant specialist. The environmental grant specialist has the right to review an organization’s eligibility at any time, and it is best to confirm your eligibility before you apply for a grant.

Pre-application requirements

If you are thinking about applying for a grant, contact your local lake, streams or AIS biologist as early as possible.

Every applicant* must submit a project pre-application to by September 15. The pre-application is essentially a draft of sections 1, 2, 5 and 8 of the surface water grant application (Form 8700-284). Applicants should do their best to provide project information using the information they have available at that time.

Your local biologist will review your pre-application; you may be required to attend a pre-application scoping meeting prior to the final application deadline on November 15.

*If you are a returning Clean Boats, Clean Waters, Healthy Lakes & Rivers, or Lake Monitoring & Protection Network applicant, you are not required to submit a pre-application.


The Surface Water Grant Program supports surface water management from start to finish. Whether your organization is looking for help with outreach, data collection, planning, project design or implementation, we have a grant to help you. Your regional lake, streams or AIS biologist can help determine which program(s) might be best for your project.

Education and Planning Grants

» Education and Planning Grant Fact Sheet

Surface Water Education

Surface Water Education projects reach people with information about how surface waters work, their importance, and how we can protect them. Eligible projects might focus on the quality of aquatic ecosystems, their beneficial uses, ecological condition, and the threats or challenges they face.

Surface Water Planning

Surface water planning grants can be used to assess surface water quality or to create a plan outlining future management actions for the benefit of surface water. Planning projects must lay the groundwork to protect or improve surface water, prevent pollution, prevent aquatic invasive species, or protect or improve aquatic ecosystems, including biological populations and habitat.

Comprehensive Planning

A comprehensive management planning project will take a hard look at a waterbody or watershed to determine condition and quality. It will identify threats, problems and causes, while providing strategic direction and timeline for implementation of management objectives. The plan will strive to understand your community, its goals, and suggest actions to accomplish them.

AIS Prevention and Management Grants

» AIS Grant Fact Sheet

Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Prevention

AIS Prevention grants further reduce the spread or risk of introduction of AIS. While the CBCW program is the departments flagship AIS prevention education program, there are additional (“supplemental”) prevention efforts that may bolster this effort.

Clean Boats, Clean Waters

Clean Boats, Clean Waters (CBCW) is an aquatic invasive species (AIS) prevention subprogram through which volunteer or paid staff conduct boat and trailer inspections and educate boaters on how to prevent the spread of AIS at boat landings.

AIS Population Management (Small- or Large-Scale)

When an established population of aquatic invasive species is having adverse effects on a waterbody or wetland, funding is available for control activities. Managing aquatic invasive species can be challenging, but adaptive and integrated pest management can help. Participation in the large- or small-scale control program requires an approved recommendation in an aquatic plant or aquatic invasive species management plan.

Early Detection & Response

Early Detection & Response projects should focus on education, population monitoring and early planning steps for any population of ch. NR40 classified prohibited species, or pioneering populations of ch. NR40 restricted species. Because projects occur without the guidance of a management plan, projects must be conducted in coordination with the department.

AIS Research & Demonstration

Aquatic invasive species research and development projects should have the goal of increasing scientific understanding of the ecological and economic implications of AIS and management, and to assess innovative techniques for prevention, containment and control. Projects should be cooperative activities between a grantee and the department.

Surface Water Restoration and Management Grants

» Management Grant Fact Sheet

Healthy Lakes & Rivers

Healthy Lakes & Rivers grants support five simple and inexpensive best practices that may be installed in the littoral, transition/buffer, and upland zones of shoreland properties. Practices must follow department guidelines published in the Healthy Lakes and Rivers Action Plan and supporting technical guidance. Detailed information is available at Healthy Lakes & Rivers.

Surface Water Restoration

Surface water restoration grants support implementation. Choose from a set of best practices to make a difference right away. Unlike plan implementation grants, these projects don’t require a comprehensive management plan.

Management Plan Implementation

Management plan implementation projects will implement an approved recommendation found in a surface water management plan. Projects will improve or protect surface water or aquatic ecosystems. Eligible activities include the actions necessary to implement the recommendation.

Ordinance Development

Ordinance Development projects help a grantee develop local regulations to support water quality, aquatic life, and habitat. Ordinances include lake use, boating, conservancy, wetland, shoreland, floodplain, construction erosion control and others.

Fee Simple Land Easement & Acquisition

Grants under this subprogram provide funding for permanent protection of land associated with lakes and rivers. Grants may be used for the acquisition of property or some property rights (also called easements) to protect lakes, rivers, and their ecosystems in perpetuity.

Wetland Restoration Incentives

Wetland Incentives are available for grantees that have completed a comprehensive land use plan that includes a recommendation for wetland enhancement or restoration. Incentive grants are $10,000 each with no cost-sharing required.

County and Tribal Government Grants

Lake Monitoring & Protection Network

The Lake Monitoring & Protection Network provides annual support to network cooperators for lake monitoring and AIS prevention activities. Eligible network cooperators include counties, federal agencies, tribal governing bodies and cooperative agents designated by a county. Detailed information on Lake Monitoring & Protection Network grants can be found in Section 4 of the guidance document.

County Lake Grants

County lake grants help counties and tribes carry out a lake protection planning and implementation program. Counties should first apply for a grant to design a lake protection strategy. Subsequent grants can be used to implement the protection plan. For more details on County Lake grants, see grant fact sheet.

Grant cycle timeline

Date Action
May 1 Deadline: Confirm organization’s eligibility to apply by contacting your local environmental grants specialist
June 1 Updated guidance and forms are published on the Surface Water Grant webpage
June - September Identify project goals and objectives, define activities and methods, and develop a budget
September 15 Deadline: Submit your pre-application to Your biologist will then determine whether a pre-application meeting is required.
September - October Meet with your biologists, complete application and attain all supporting documentation (e.g. Authorizing resolution, project maps, lab forms, etc.)
November 15 Deadline: Grant application deadline.
February 15 (approximate) Grant awards announced
March 15 Start of grant period

Developing a project

Successful applicants must identify project goals and objectives, as well as begin to define activities and methods, prior to the pre-application submittal deadline, September 15. Section 5 of the Surface Water Grant Program Applicant Guide and Program Guidance provides helpful tips for conceiving and refining a project.

Developing a budget

Once your organization has defined your activities and methods, you may begin to develop a budget. Section 6 of the Surface Water Grant Program Applicant Guide and Program Guidance provides important information regarding eligible costs, cost-containment and local cost-share requirements.

Is your project competitive?

Funding priorities vary depending on the grant type. In general, strong projects will be specific, well-thought out, and include specific details. You should strive to describe your project richly, but concisely. As you develop your project, be sure to consider the appropriate ranking sheet of your grant type. Ranking sheets can be found in Appendix A: Application Ranking Sheets.

Preparing your application

To ensure eligibility for consideration of funding, you must follow all application instructions outlined in guidance. Refer to Section 7 of the Surface Water Grant Program Applicant Guide and Program Guidance for details on how to apply.

Application forms

Note: If you are having problems opening forms, visit PDF Help.

Other application materials

Submitting an application

All emailed grant applications must be sent to the department by 11:59:59 p.m. on November 15. Mailed applications must be postmarked by November 15. If an application is received after the deadline, the application will be deemed ineligible and will not be considered for funding. If November 15 falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the deadline will fall on the following Monday. (Exception: AIS early detection and response grant applications are accepted year-round).

The preferred method of application submittal is via email to In the subject line of the e-mail, enter the type of grant you are applying for, the county where the project is located and the applicant’s name (e.g., Surface Water Planning, Oneida Co., Eagle River Lake Association). All application materials should be saved in PDF format and should not exceed 15 megabytes (MB) in size. If e-mail size (including attachments) exceeds 15 MB, send documents in multiple e-mails. It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure the application has been submitted by the deadline. The applicant will receive a confirmation email when the application has been received or if any additional materials are required.

If using the electronic signature option when submitting the application, the authorized representative must be the person to email in the application. If sending in an application with a wet/handwritten signature, any representative of the organization can submit the application.

If you are not able to submit an application by email, you may send the application to:

DNR Surface Water Grants — WY/3 101 S. Webster St., PO Box 7921 Madison, WI 53707-7921

Project management & financial administration

Claims for payment of project expenditures are made on a reimbursement basis. To be eligible for reimbursement, you must adhere to all conditions within your grant agreement and all generally accepted accounting principles as defined in Section 9 of the Surface Water Grant Program Applicant Guide and Program Guidance.

Partial & final payments

Eligibility for advance payments, partial payments, the maximum frequency of payments, the maximum number of partial payments allowed during the life of a grant, and the percentage of the grant award that is required to be retained for final payment vary depending upon the type of grant you received. For more information on reimbursement, refer to Section 10 of the Surface Water Grant Program Applicant Guide and Program Guidance.


Your local lake, streams or AIS biologist is your best contact for support and technical assistance. Email or call if you are interested in starting a project.


You might find these companion documents or partner links helpful.

Aquatic invasive species projects
Outreach and education
Planning projects
Water quality
Protection & restoration
Land/Easement Acquisition
Helpful websites

Clean Boats, Clean Waters

Clean Boats, Clean Waters (CBCW) is a streamlined aquatic invasive species (AIS) grant through which volunteer or paid staff conduct boat and trailer inspections and educate boaters on how to prevent the spread of AIS at boat landings. CBCW grants provide funding to eligible sponsors to help with the cost of running a CBCW program that helps prevent the introduction of aquatic invasive species in Wisconsin’s surface waters or limits the spread of aquatic invasive species that may already be present.


CBCW grant applications are due November 15. Repeat CBCW applicants do not need to notify DNR staff of intent to apply, but new CBCW grant applicants must notify DNR staff by September 15. The preferred method of application submittal is via email to Alternatively, you can mail your application to CBCW Grant Manager WY/3, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, 101 S. Webster St., Madison, WI 53703. It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure the application has been submitted by the deadline and to follow up in a timely manner.

Grant Cycle Timeline

May 1 New grant applicants confirm organization eligibility by contacting your local environmental grants specialist
September 15 New grant applicants notify of intent to apply for a grant.
November 15 Grant application deadline
Before February 15 Receive grant award letter and advanced payment that is 25% of grant award amount.
February 15 Start of grant period
December 31 End of grant period and deadline to submit SWIMS data
June 30 Deadline to submit final payment request


Eligible expenses are strictly limited to the following:

  • Payment to inspectors or in-kind donation of volunteer inspector hours
  • Time spent on the administration of the program or entering hours into the Surface Water Integrated Monitoring System (SWIMS) database.
  • Time spent at CBCW workshops or training
  • CBCW clothing or supplies from UW-Extension Lakes

Note: Mileage, signage, trash management, port-a-potties, association dues, conference attendance, food, beverages, and supplies for decontamination are not eligible expenses and cannot be used as match.


Healthy lakes & rivers

Healthy Lakes & Rivers is a subprogram of the Surface Water Management grant program that focuses on shoreland landowners that want to install practices on their property to improve habitat and water quality. Healthy Lakes & Rivers grants support five simple and inexpensive best practices that may be installed in the littoral, transition/buffer, and upland zones of shoreland properties. Practices must follow department guidelines published in the Healthy Lakes and Rivers Action Plan and supporting technical guidance. A variety of technical and financial resources are available to assist Healthy Lakes & Rivers grant applicants and managers.

Project planning

Applying for a grant

Project management and reporting

Requesting reimbursement

More information

Contact information