Water use permits

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On May 24, 2023, Gov. Tim Walz signed the Environment, Natural Resources, Climate, and Energy Finance and Policy Bill, which included the budget for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for fiscal years 2024 and 2025.

In addition to one-time spending that represents an historic investment in Minnesota’s natural resources, the bill also includes select fee increases, including an increase in water use permit fees outline in Minnesota Statute 103G.271, subd. 6(h). These changes help to ensure that DNR is able to support its water resource programs, provide ongoing and improved technical assistance, and ensure timely permitting and review processes for water permit applications.

The water use fee changes will go into effect on July 1, 2023. This affects the following water use types that have active DNR water appropriation permit authorizations: municipal/public water suppliers, private water suppliers, rural water suppliers, landscape and athletic field irrigation, cemetery irrigation, and golf course irrigation.

Water use in July, August, and September of 2023 that exceeds the volume of water used in January 2023 will be subject to the new summer water use fee of $50 per million gallons of water used. Water use in June 2023 that exceeds the volume of water used in January 2023 will be subject to the previous summer water use fee of $30 per million gallons. A notice of the fees owed, including the new summer water use fee rate will be sent to the water appropriation permit holders mentioned above through the Minnesota DNR Permitting and Reporting System (MPARS) or USPS mail in late 2023 or early 2024 as you prepare to complete your annual DNR water use report.

For any questions, please contact Tom Hovey, water regulations unit supervisor, at (651) 259-5654 or at [email protected].


1. Preliminary Well Construction Assessment

A preliminary assessment is required before drilling a well that will be used to withdraw more than 10,000 gallons of water per day or 1 million gallons per year. To apply for a Preliminary Well Construction Assessment, please use the MNDNR Permitting and Reporting System. If you are using MPARS for the first time, you will need to create an account. Once created, click on the link in the Actions box called "New Well Construction Assessment".

MPARS is the easiest and most convenient method for most people to request a preliminary well construction assessment, and allows for faster response times. If you prefer a paper form, please contact the DNR water permits and reporting staff at 651-259-5724.

2. A water use (appropriation) permit from the DNR is required for all users withdrawing more than 10,000 gallons of water per day or 1 million gallons per year.
There are several exemptions to water appropriation permit requirements:

  • domestic uses serving less than 25 persons for general residential purposes,
  • test pumping of a ground water source,
  • reuse of water already authorized by a permit (e.g., water delivered by a municipal water system), or
  • certain agricultural drainage systems (check with your area hydrologist for applicability).

3. A permit is required to appropriate or transport any amount of water from a designated infested water, even if the amount of water to be taken is less than the amount that is required by a water use permit. Applications for these permits are reviewed and issued through the DNR Invasive Species Program

Water Appropriation Permit Application Forms

To apply for a water appropriation permit, please use the MNDNR Permitting and Reporting System. If you are using MPARS for the first time, you will need to create an account. Once created, click on the link in the Actions box called "Apply for a New Permit/Authorization". You will be billed separately (usually $150) for the application fee. Please note that Minnesota Statutes allow local units of government 30 days to review permit applications and submit comments to the DNR.

open MPARS

Apply for water permits and preliminary well construction assessments, request changes to existing permits, and report annual water use using MPARS.

open MPARS

MPARS is the easiest and most convenient method for most people to apply for water appropriation permits.  If it is not possible for you to apply online, paper application forms may be requested by contacting water permitting and reporting staff at 651-259-5724. Please note that the use of paper forms may not offer the efficiency or speed of the MPARS online process, and may result in the need for more follow-up with DNR staff to obtain needed information.

Aquifer Pumping Tests

Minnesota Statute 103G.287 requires that all applications for groundwater appropriations include the results of an aquifer test completed according to specifications approved by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The DNR often waives the aquifer test requirement, but not always.  Aquifer tests are typically conducted in places where we don't have a good understanding of how an aquifer responds to pumping or how an aquifer is connected to wetlands, streams, or other aquifers. The DNR processes approximately 400 groundwater permit applications each year; typically only 2 to 6 aquifer tests are required each year.

An aquifer test consists of pumping groundwater at a controlled rate from one well and measuring how much and how quickly groundwater levels decline in nearby wells. The DNR uses the results from aquifer tests to determine whether the requested appropriation is sustainable. The DNR sometimes also requires an aquifer test in order to investigate a well interference complaint.

If you are required to conduct an aquifer test, you will likely be required to:

  • install one or more observation wells;
  • survey the wells;
  • install a pump and a discharge line;
  • monitor water levels; and
  • pump for at least 72 hours.

Some of these tasks may require a licensed well contractor. The DNR cannot conduct the test for you. We can provide some assistance with measuring water levels as staff time allows.

Every aquifer test is a little different, because the geology is slightly different at every site. For that reason, the DNR will provide specifications for your aquifer test. Permit applicants also have the option of hiring a qualified licensed Professional Geologist to prepare specifications which the DNR can then review.

  • If you are submitting an aquifer test specification for the DNR’s review, submit your specification to the DNR for review at least one month before you intend to start the test. Depending on the pumping rate you intend to request and the nature of the aquifer, additional work may be required. 
  • If you start the aquifer test before DNR has approved your specification, you may need to run another test or it may take longer to review your data submittal (i.e., if the data is not collected appropriately, additional time will be needed to analyze the data).
Water Use Reporting

All active water appropriation permit holders are required to measure monthly water use with an approved measuring device to an accuracy of 10 percent and report water use yearly. Permittees are encouraged to use MPARS to report annual water use data. This system provides many benefits including automatically calculating total volumes and fees. Water use reporting and processing fees are due by February 15 of each year.

If you are unable to report using MPARS, please request a paper form by calling 651-259-5724.

Water Use Fees
Water Level and Flow Monitoring

Permits may include requirements that water levels or flows be measured and reported to the DNR water permitting staff. Forms for reporting permit-required water level and flow measurements from wells and surface water are available through the links below. Use these forms to record and save the water level and flow measurements. Completed forms and pressure transducer data (if required) should be e-mailed to the appropriate contact below. This information should be submitted at intervals specified on each permit. If you have questions about the monitoring requirements on your permit, contact your local DNR area hydrologist. Paper copies of these forms are available upon request.

Map of Regional contacts to send water level or flow monitoring data

Permit Amendments

Permit holders must request to amend their permits if changes are made to their water systems, including:

  • number of installations (wells, pumping stations),
  • pumping rate,
  • volume of water required, or
  • number of acres irrigated or irrigated area.

All amendment requests should be submitted using the MNDNR Permitting and Reporting System. A $150 fee will be charged for most amendments, subject to the fee exemptions listed below.

Permit Transfers

Requests for transfers of permits to new land owners should be submitted using the MNDNR Permitting and Reporting System. You will need to know the name of the new owner, their contact information, and the date of the sale or transfer.  A $150 fee will be charged subject to the fee exemptions listed below.


Permit holders who no longer require their water use permits should request termination using the MNDNR Permitting and Reporting System. A fee is not required to terminate a permit. However, annual water use reports and fees are due for each year in which a permit was active. Please use MPARS to report annual water use.

Fee Exemptions

The following activities related to water use permits are exempt from amendment or transfer fees:

  • a change in mailing address;
  • a change of authorized agent when land ownership has not changed;
  • an assignment of a permit within the immediate family;
  • a change in pump location on surface water sources for the same operation;
  • an addition of a new well that replaces an old well for the same permitted operation and that is completed at a similar depth in the same aquifer;
  • a decrease in the permitted pumping rate, amount of water authorized, or irrigated acreage;
  • an increase in the permitted pumping rate within 10 percent;
  • an increase in the permitted appropriation within ten percent of the annual authorization for non-irrigation permits; and
  • an increase of less than 30 acres in the number of permitted irrigated acres.

In addition, any state agency or federal government agency is exempt from permit application, amendment, and transfer fees.

Permit Suspensions Due to Dry Conditions

In order to safeguard water availability for natural environments and downstream higher priority users (domestic drinking water supplies), Minnesota law requires the DNR to limit consumptive appropriations of surface water under certain low flow conditions. Should conditions warrant, the DNR may suspend surface water appropriation permits.

The majority of watersheds in the state have a long-term water gauge that allows the DNR to monitor flow rates. The data collected from these gauges is utilized to quantify base flows as well as peak and low flow conditions. DNR staff continually monitor the flows in these major watersheds to determine when the low flow threshold has been reached. The threshold is based on statistical analysis that calculates what is called the Q90 flow. The Q90 value indicates that 90% of the time in recent decades, stream flow has been greater than that value. In other words, the stream flow has only been that level or below 10% of the time. Q90 is considered a protected low flow level in Minnesota and is used for suspending surface water appropriations.

The DNR’s surface water suspension guidelines identify the many factors that need to be considered for both permit suspension and permit reinstatement. The variability of these natural systems requires a holistic approach that can incorporate a broad array of inputs as part of the decision-making. At a minimum, river flows need to be above the minimum flow (Q90) for three consecutive days, but not just slightly above the minimum. The flow must be high enough so all surface water appropriations do not reduce the flow back below the minimum flow. Precipitation forecasts are also considered when determining whether permits should be re-instated. These careful evaluations help to avoid re-suspending permits shortly after having them reinstated. That pattern would not be good for the aquatic ecosystem and could create frustration or confusion for permit holders.

Additionally, at the time of application for a permit to appropriate a surface water, the DNR requires the applicant to withstand a potential permit suspension due to minimum flows in the watershed and not appropriate water or identify an alternative supply of water to use during the permit suspension. The alternative supply may be a well or other non-surface water source of water.

For questions about surface water appropriations and the potential for suspension due to low flows contact your local area hydrologist.

Water Use Permit Types, Flowing Wells, and Geothermal

Storm Water Use and Appropriation is Permit Exempt

A law established during the 2017 legislative session exempts the need for a water appropriation permit if using storm water from “constructed management facilities for storm water.” This is defined in Minnesota Statute to mean “ponds, basins, holding tanks, cisterns, infiltration trenches and swales, or other best management practices that have been designed, constructed, and operated to store or treat storm water in accordance with local, state, or federal requirements.” This law became effective July 1, 2017. Existing water appropriation permits using storm water as defined in Minnesota Statute have been terminated. If you have additional questions about this permit exemption contact your area hydrologist.

Infested Waters Diversion or Transportation Permit Application

If you plan to appropriate and use water—in excess of 10,000 gallons per day or 1 million gallons per year—from a listed infested water, you need to apply for a water appropriation permit through the Minnesota DNR Permitting and Reporting System. The DNR area hydrologist or water permitting staff will require a permit condition(s) to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species during your water appropriation activities. You will be required to employ the required best management practices to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species to other waters.

If your appropriation will be less than 1 million gallons per year and 10,000 gallons per day from listed infested waters, download and print the application form below or request that a form be sent to you by mail. Complete the form furnishing all requested information and supporting documents. Submit the application per the instructions on the form. There are no fees for this permit. Minnesota Rules allow up to 90 days for the Department to act upon the permit application.

Permit Application Form for appropriation of less than 1 million gallons per year and 10,000 gallons per day:

Temporary Projects General Permit No. 1997-0005

This general permit authorizes temporary water appropriations for construction dewatering, landscaping, dust control, and hydrostatic testing of pipelines, tanks, and wastewater ponds.

To be included under General Permit No. 1997-0005 the project must meet the following criteria:

  • Projects must have a minimal potential for causing adverse environmental impacts,
  • Water appropriations cannot exceed 50 million gallons per year,
  • Water appropriations must be completed within one year from the start of pumping,
  • Prior authorization to use General Permit No. 1997-0005 must be requested by submitting an application using the MNDNR Permitting and Reporting System;
  • Records of monthly water appropriation volumes must be maintained and submitted to the Department on or before February 15th of the year following water use using the MNDNR Permitting and Reporting System. A $140 water use fee will be charged for projects that exceed 15 million gallons.

For more information please download the following packet of information which includes the complete text of the permit language:

Water for Livestock and Feedlot Operations

Water is important for any farming operation. It is critical the DNR works with producers to manage our water resources now and in the future. Most livestock producers use groundwater as their primary source of water for sanitation, animal drinking, and mixing feed. Livestock operations may be permitted to use water through either an individual or general water appropriation permit. Learn more about how the DNR works with producers to manage water resources for livestock and feedlot operations in Minnesota.

Flowing Wells

Flowing wells are drilled holes in a groundwater aquifer with sufficient natural pressure to force water above the ground surface so that water will flow without pumping. Flowing wells present unique challenges for well drillers, pump installers and people that depend on a well for their home, farm or business. They are found throughout the entire state of Minnesota and are not limited to certain geographies. Learn more by reviewing the DNR flowing well factsheet.

Once-Through Geothermal Systems and Groundwater Thermal Exchange Devices

See the following fact sheets for more information about these types of systems and MN state laws:
Once-Through Geothermal Systems
Groundwater Thermal Exchange Devices

Chemigation permit information can be found at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture web site. See: Chemigation permit information.

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