When a domestic or municipal water-supply well goes out of water and the well owner suspects that the lack of water was caused by a nearby high-capacity groundwater user, the well owner can file a complaint with the DNR. The DNR then conducts an investigation to determine what caused the lack of water situation. The map below shows the locations where the DNR has received out-of-water complaints this year (2021). Some complaints have been investigated and resolved, other investigations are still underway.
The map shows well interference complaints received by the DNR as of 11/17/2021. This map is updated approximately weekly during the 2021 drought. Complaints fall into one of the four categories or stages:
- “Active investigation”: These are locations where the DNR is investigating to determine the whether the lack of water was caused by high-capacity appropriator(s). These may also be locations where the DNR has high concern for a public water-supply well.
- “Resolved by nearby appropriators”: These are locations where the DNR received a well interference complaint and nearby appropriator(s) paid to have the complainant’s water restored before the DNR completed the investigation.
- “Valid”: These are locations where the DNR has received a well interference complaint, conducted an investigation, and determined that the lack of water was caused by nearby appropriators.
- “Not valid”: These are locations where the DNR received a well interference complaint, conducted an investigation, and determined that the lack of water was not caused by nearby appropriators.
- "Dismissed": DNR received well interference complaint but there was not enough information to determine if the complaint was valid or the domestic well was not up to well code.
- Well Interference (“Out-of-water”) Complaint Process
When a well pumps, it lowers the water level in the surrounding aquifer. Sometimes the water level falls below the reach of other, shallower wells, and those wells go out of water. When that happens it is called a “well interference”. Being without water is a major inconvenience and can damage well pumps. Sometimes the problem can be solved by lowering the pump in the well, but sometimes it is necessary to drill a new well.
In Minnesota, domestic water supplies have the highest priority when supplies are limited, as established by Minnesota Statute 103G.261. Domestic well owners and municipal water suppliers that go out of water and suspect the situation is caused by a high-capacity well can submit a well interference complaint to the DNR. The DNR then investigates the complaint in accordance with the process described in Minnesota rules 6115.0730. However, before the DNR will investigate a well interference complaint, the well owner must have the well inspected by a licensed well driller. Sometimes wells go out of water due to a mechanical problem which can be fixed by a well driller and is not caused by well interference.
- What to do if you run out of water?
- Call a licensed well contractor (driller). During a drought, well drillers are very busy and might not be able to visit your well right away. Have your well serviced, pump lowered, or a new well drilled in order to restore your water supply. Keep the receipts.
- If you suspect that your well’s lack of water was caused by a nearby high-volume groundwater user(s), contact the user(s) and let them know your well went out of water. Try to work out a solution together.
- If you have not been able to work out a financial agreement with the neighboring high-volume well owner(s) and you wish to file a complaint with the DNR, fill out the Water Well Information and Complaint Questionnaire form. A licensed well driller will also need to complete and sign parts of the form to certify that your well is in good working order. If you do not have computer access, the DNR will mail you the form and instructions. Some well drillers carry the forms in their vehicle.
- If you purchase water or pay for a well inspection or repair, keep the receipts. Your costs can be part of the negotiated settlement if the DNR determines that you went out of water because of nearby high-capacity wells.
- Do not seal the old well if you plan to file a Well Interference Complaint! If you seal your old well, the DNR cannot investigate and your complaint will be dismissed.
- What happens if I file a well interference complaint?
It usually takes several weeks to several months for the DNR to investigate a well interference complaint. When the investigation is complete, the DNR determines if the complaint is “Valid” (caused by high-capacity wells) or “Not valid” (not caused by high-capacity wells). If the complaint is found valid, the cost of restoring a water supply may be partially or fully reimbursed by the high-volume appropriator. Alternately, the appropriator can request a modification or restriction of their permit OR they can request a public hearing. In most cases the appropriator chooses to settle by paying all or part of the costs incurred by the domestic well owner.
While the DNR is investigating, we will not share personal identifying information about you with nearby high-volume appropriators. When the investigation is complete, your name and location will be shared with nearby high-volume appropriators as part of the DNR’s report.