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Water Withdrawals and Irrigation Permitting

Waterway protection

NOTES ON WATERWAYS PERMITS

For each project type below, if an exemption or a general permit is available, you will find a link to a checklist of requirements. If your project does not meet exemption eligibility criteria, review the general permit checklist. If your project does not meet general permit eligibility criteria, you must apply for an individual permit.

To start a permit application, use the DNR Water ePermitting System. A WAMS ID is required.

To determine if a local permit or a federal permit is required for your project, contact your city or county zoning authority [exit DNR] and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – St. Paul District Office [exit DNR].

State law requires a landowner with a project site that is 1 acre or larger in size to obtain a construction site stormwater permit. To submit a notice of intent, visit the DNR Stormwater Runoff Permitting page.

Applicable statutes and code include Section 30.18, Wis. Stats. [PDF exit DNR], Section 281.35 [exit DNR], and Section 86.17, Wis. Stats. [PDF exit DNR].

PROJECT TYPES

WATER WITHDRAWALS FOR DOMESTIC USE

A riparian owner - the owner of land bordering a lake, river, or stream - has a right to use water for domestic purposes and does not need a permit, keeping the following in mind:

  • A permit is not required to pump water to water a lawn or private garden, provided that produce from the garden is non-commercial.
  • All surface water withdrawals need the written consent of downstream users.
  • Water withdrawn must be a reasonable amount and cannot be detrimental to public rights and resources. 
  • The DNR may set a public rights stage or a minimum water level or flow to protect public rights and resources. The amount of water taken cannot impact those stages, levels or flows.
  • You may need a permit if you are also placing a structure below the Ordinary High Water Mark.

WATER WITHDRAWALS FOR IRRIGATION OR AGRICULTURE

Surface water withdrawal from streams or lakes with outlet streams for purposes of irrigation or agriculture requires a DNR individual permit. For water withdrawals in lakes with no outlet, permitting options depend on the amount of water withdrawn. Use the decision tool below for more information. 

Permitting Options

Technical Resources

Do I need a Permit?

This is a text link version of our Withdrawals and irrigation interactive question and answer module. If you see this message, you currently have JavaScript disabled or are in compatibility mode while using Internet Explorer. This text version is here to help you understand if you need a permit from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for your Withdrawal or irrigation project, and if so, which one. Please go through and answer each question. This will help you determine which permit you will need.

Question 1 :

Is the water being withdrawn from:

If your answer is "Surface Water,” go to Question 2.

If your answer is “Groundwater,”:

You've answered Groundwater:

Section 30.18 individual permits are not required. However, registration is required for any withdrawal that could result in over 100,000 gallons per day.

Question 2 :

Are you a riparian?

If your answer is "Yes,” go to Question 3.

If your answer is “No,”:

You've answered No:

You are not eligible for a Section 30.18 water withdrawal permit.

Question 3 :

Is the proposed withdrawal from a:

To determine if your lake is a seepage lake, please see the Wisconsin Lakes Book.



If your answer is "Lake with no outlet (seepage lake),” go to Question 4.

If your answer is “Public highway crossing a spring, creek, stream or river,”:

You've answered Public highway crossing a spring, creek, stream or river:

The general public has the right to use and take water from any spring, creek or running water that may be found running in or across the limits of any public highway with no permit. (Reference Link [PDF]). However, the water cannot be used for irrigation or agricultural purposes.

You will need a permit if you place a structure (e.g., intake structure) below the OHWM.

Water taken at highway stream crossings must be a nominal (reasonable) amount and cannot be detrimental to public rights and resources. The department may also set a public rights stage or a minimum water level or flow to protect public rights and resources. The amount of water taken cannot impact those stages, levels or flows.

If your answer is "Stream or a lake with an outlet,” go to Question 5.

Question 4 :

Does the water loss average 2 million gallons or more per day in a 30 day period?


 
 

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

A s. 30.18 individual permit and fee is required to withdraw water if the withdrawal will result in a water loss averaging 2 million gallons per day in a 30 day period.

A water use registration or permit may be required for ALL withdrawals greater than One hundred thousand (100,000) gallons per day (Seventy gallons per minute) in any thirty (30) day period.

This means any withdrawal over 100,000 gallons per day, but less than 2 million gallons per day, will need to be registered or have a permit. Any withdrawal over 2 million gallons per day needs a permit. If your withdrawal will not reach 100,000 gallons per day, a water withdrawal permit is not required, but you still may need to register.

To apply for an individual permit, please visit the individual permits page.*Please note: WAMS ID and password required to apply. If you do not have a WAMS ID, you must register for one before proceeding.

Please be aware there may be additional permit standards you must meet. Before applying for a permit, please review the Application Checklist [PDF] and also be sure to review the Sample Drawings [PDF] for this activity.

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

s. 30.18 individual permits are not required. However, registration is required for any withdrawal that could result in over 100,000 gallons per day.

If the withdrawal itself does not require a permit, you may still need a permit if there is a structure (e.g., intake structure) located below the OHWM.
 

Question 5 :

Is the purpose of the withdrawal for any of the following:

  • Maintaining or restoring the normal flow of a navigable stream
  • Maintaining or restoring the normal level of a navigable lake
  • Agriculture (beekeeping; dairying; egg production; feedlots; grazing; floriculture; raising of livestock; raising of poultry; raising of fruits, nuts and berries; raising of grains, grass, mint and seed crops; raising of vegetables; and sod farming).
  • Irrigation

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

A s. 30.18 individual permit and fee is required to withdraw water if the purpose is for:

  • Maintaining or restoring the normal flow of a navigable stream
  • Maintaining or restoring the normal level of a navigable lake
  • Agriculture (beekeeping; dairying; egg production; feedlots; grazing; floriculture; raising of livestock; raising of poultry; raising of fruits, nuts and berries; raising of grains, grass, mint and seed crops; raising of vegetables; and sod farming).
  • Irrigation

A water use registration or permit may be required for ALL withdrawals greater than One hundred thousand (100,000) gallons per day (Seventy gallons per minute) in any thirty (30) day period.

To apply for an individual permit, please visit the individual permits page.*Please note: WAMS ID and password required to apply. If you do not have a WAMS ID, you must register for one before proceeding.

Please be aware there may be additional permit standards you must meet. Before applying for a permit, please review the Permit Application Checklist [PDF] and also be sure to review the Sample Drawings [PDF] for this activity.

If your answer is "No,” go to Question 4.