Well interference resolution process

What is a well interference?

When a pump draws water from a well, it causes the water level in the surrounding aquifer to go down. 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.”

Graphic explanation of well interferenceFigure 1 A high capacity well may cause the water level to drop. Domestic wells may have problems getting water if water levels drop below their pump. This condition is referred to as "well interference."

Homeowners should first contact a licensed well driller and have their water supply restored. 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. Keep all related receipts.

When 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. Examples of high-capacity groundwater users/appropriators include industries, irrigators, public water supplies, or quarries.

The DNR then conducts an investigation to determine what caused the lack of water situation. If the Well Interference Investigation is found valid a settlement can be negotiated with the high-capacity water user(s) to reimburse homeowners for some or all of their costs to restore their domestic water supply. The timeline from submitting a complaint to closing the investigation typically takes 3-6 months.

What to do if you run out of water
  1. Call a licensed well contractor (driller). Have your well serviced, pump lowered, or a new well drilled in order to restore your water supply. Keep the receipts.
  2. If you suspect that your well’s lack of water was caused by a nearby high-volume groundwater user(s), you may contact the user(s) and let them know your well went out of water. If you are comfortable doing so, try to work out a solution together.
  3. 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.

    Water Well Information and Complaint Questionnaire Form

  4. 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.
  5. Do not seal the old well if you plan to file a Well Interference Complaint! If you seal your old well, the law states that the DNR cannot investigate and your complaint will be dismissed.
  6. Submit the completed complaint form to the DNR by mail, or scan and email to the regional contact listed on the first page of the form.
  7. See the Well Interference Investigation Process for next steps.
Well interference investigation process

Once a completed Water Well Complaint Form is submitted to the DNR the investigation begins. You need to have a licensed well driller inspect the well and complete part of the form. The DNR Ecological and Water Resources Division will make an on-site investigation. If the timing works out, the DNR may make the site visit at the same time as the well driller. Nearby high-capacity water-users may also wish to inspect the well.

It usually takes several weeks to several months for the DNR to investigate a well interference complaint and compile a Technical Report. 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 investigation is found Valid and finds evidence that nearby high-capacity pumping has significantly lowered the water level in the domestic well, the high-capacity user may be responsible for partially or fully reimbursing the cost of restoring a water supply.

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.

In the Forms and Fact Sheets section below, see the Well Interference Process Flow Chart for more details.

Water availability rights and possible outcomes

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.

What are the possible outcomes of an investigation?

  • Active investigation: These are cases 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. Eventually these will be resolved.
  • Resolved by nearby appropriators: These are cases 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 cases 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 cases 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.
Forms and fact sheets

Contacts

Contact your DNR Area Hydrologist or the State Well Interference Coordinator (651-259-5034 or [email protected]) if you have questions.