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a water withdrawal or terminate a registration.
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Contact information
For information on this page, contact:
Water Use Program
608-266-2299
WI Department of Natural Resources
Water Use Section DG/5
PO Box 7921
Madison WI 53707-7921

Water use FAQ

Great Lakes Compact

1. What is the Great Lakes Basin?

The Great Lakes Basin includes waters of the great lakes basin such as all streams, rivers, lakes, connecting channels, and other bodies of water (including groundwater and ponds). Please also see Wis. Stats. s. 381.346(1)(x).

2. What is the effective date of the Great Lakes Compact?

The effective date of the Compact is December 8th, 2008.

Registration

3. What is a withdrawal?

Withdraw or withdrawal means the taking of water from surface water or groundwater including springs, ponds, lakes, rivers, streams and the Great Lakes. There are many different methods for withdrawing water including wells, intake pipes, and ditches. When someone withdraws water, it is taken out of or redirected from its natural course making it unavailable for other purposes, even if only temporarily. If you have questions about whether your water use is a withdrawal please contact please contact the Water Use Program (608-266-2299).

4. How is a property defined?

A property is defined “as all contiguous land controlled by one owner, lessee, or any other person having a possessory interest. Lands under single ownership bisected by highways or railroad right-of-ways are considered contiguous.” Each “property” has been assigned a unique number by the Water Use Program. This number can be seen within “Section 1- Property Information” on your ivory Water Withdrawal Report. You will be assessed a fee for each registered property that you own. If you are a public water supplier, please see the answer to the question, “How is property defined for public water supply systems?”

5. Why is my property considered a high capacity well property?

A high capacity property is a property with any combination of wells that when added together totals 70 GPM or more. All wells on a high capacity property are considered high capacity wells.

6. If I have a WPDES or Chapter 30.18 permit, do I still need to register?

Most likely no. If you have applied for a new WPDES or Chapter 30.18 permit after December of 2010, you will be automatically registered with the Water Use Program. WPDES or Chapter 30.18 permit holders that provided up-to-date mailing addresses to the DNR completed their registration prior to December of 2010. However, if you have a previously existing WPDES or Chapter 30.18 permit and you were not registered as of December of 2010, please contact the Water Use Program (608-266-2299) as soon as possible to be mailed a registration form.

7. I withdraw water, but then return all of the water I use. Do the water use program requirements still apply to me?

Yes. The water use program requirements are based on water withdrawals. The state manages water use by withdrawal because a water withdrawal takes water out of or redirects the water from its natural course making it unavailable for other purposes, even if only temporarily.

8. As a cranberry grower, do these requirements apply to me?

Yes. Although cranberry growers are exempt from many regulations, they are not exempt from the new water withdrawal requirements [exit DNR].

9. As a cranberry grower, how do I register and report my surface water withdrawals?

DNR staff members worked with the Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association to prepare guidance to help you register and report. Please read “Measuring & Estimating Water Withdrawals at Cranberry Operations” for more information: Cranberry Operations Fact Sheet [PDF 502KB]

Terminating a registration

10. What if the well has been filled and sealed (abandoned)?

If the well was filled and sealed, you must present documentation to have the well removed from our records. If you have already submitted a Filling and Sealing Report, it is possible that the Filling and Sealing Report has not been correlated with the proper well. Please check our online well sealing and filling report system and if you find a Filling and Sealing Report for your well, contact Water Use Program Staff at 608-266-2299. If you cannot locate the report, a licensed well driller or pump installer must inspect the well site following the Department's guidance titled Verification of Abandoned Wells with No Filling and Sealing Report on File [PDF 56 KB]. The licensed well driller or pump installer must complete and submit a Well Filling and Sealing form as “Verification Only” and provide the necessary documentation as outlined in the guidance. Until the DNR receives and approves this documentation, you will be responsible for annual reporting and water use fees.

11. What if I want to terminate my surface water withdrawal?

You may terminate your surface water withdrawal by completing the Termination of Water Withdrawal Registration Form 3300-271 [PDF 21 KB].

12. What if I no longer own the property or the portion of the property where the well or the surface water withdrawal is located?

If you no longer own the property, please attach a letter to your Water Withdrawal Report informing the DNR of the change in ownership (i.e. that you no longer own the property and to whom you sold the property). In order to properly identify the withdrawal source in question, please provide the address of the property where the source is located, the name of the source, the PLSS for the source (Quarter/Quarter, Quarter, Township, Section, Range), and the well identification number (if applicable). If this is in regards to a high capacity well, contact Water Use Program Staff at 608-266-2299 to determine if the property no longer qualifies as a high capacity property.

13. May I terminate my water withdrawal registration if I reduced my pump capacity so that my combined capacity to withdraw water from my property is now less than 70 GPM?

Yes. To terminate a registration, the water supply system(s) must be physically eliminated or reduced in size permanently to a capacity of less than 100,000 gallons per day (roughly equivalent to 70 GPM). If you would like to terminate your withdrawal, complete and submit a Termination of Water Withdrawal Registration Form 3300-271 [PDF 21 KB].

Reporting

14. What if my requirement to keep records of my withdrawals for this property started mid year?

Once you register a source, you should begin recording your water use for each month. On your annual reporting form for that source, please cross out the previous months that do not apply and place the following comment in Section 3c. : “This source was not registered until [enter your registration date].”

15. Do I need to report my house well?

No. If your house well has a capacity of less than 20 gallons per minute and the main water use on our property is not public water supply or domestic water use, you do not have to annually report withdrawal from your house well. House wells must be registered, however, and included in the calculation of the total withdrawal capacity for a property.

16. Do I need to report water withdrawals if I lease my property to someone, or if I have an operator?

The property owner is responsible for ensuring that the DNR receives the completed annual Water Withdrawal Reports. The lessee or operator may fill out the forms on the owner's behalf, but the owner is ultimately responsible for meeting the reporting requirements.

17. What if I did not withdraw water from this well or surface water source last year?

You must still submit the report and explain why you did not withdraw from that source. Please be aware that a well that has been taken out of service or that has not been used for 3 or more years and is not needed by the owner in the immediate future must be properly filled and sealed by a Wisconsin licensed well driller or pump installer to prevent groundwater contamination.

18. Do I need to use a meter for my well?

You are only required to have a meter if your high capacity well approval specifies the use of meter.

19. What if my method for measuring is not listed within the list of approved measurement methods?

All approved measurement methods are listed within the Water Withdrawal Report Guidance under Measurement Codes. Alternative measurement methods are allowed, but require approval by the DNR. If you would like to use an alternative method, please contact the Water Use Program (608-266-2299).

20.What if the combined pump capacity of wells on my property is greater than 70 GPM, but no single wells has a capacity of 70 GPM?

Your property is considered a High Capacity Property and as such you will need to report to the department annually. However, you will not need to pay the annual Water Use Fees.

Online Reporting System and Wisconsin User ID (also known as WAMS ID)

21. What if I forget my Wisconsin User ID or password?

Forgot Wisconsin User ID - If you believe you have already registered for a Wisconsin User ID and successfully logged into the Online Reporting System, but can't remember your Wisconsin User ID, contact Water Use Program to be emailed a reminder of your Wisconsin User ID.

Forgot Wisconsin User ID Password - If you do not remember your Wisconsin User ID password, click the link “Forgot your password” [exit DNR] on the Wisconsin User Id login page for assistance. You will be prompted with some questions and will receive your password via email. Your password is not stored at the DNR, so we cannot reset it for you.

22. I am unable to log in to the Online Reporting System using my Wisconsin User ID, what should I do?

No Wisconsin User ID - You will need a Wisconsin User ID to access the Online Reporting System. If you do not have a Wisconsin User ID, you will need to register for a Wisconsin User ID [exit DNR]. Once you have created a Wisconsin User ID and password, you should be able to log into the Online Reporting System using the access code provided to you within the 2010 Water Withdrawal Reporting letter that you should have received in the mail.

Unusual Characters: Please do not use unusual characters in your Wisconsin User ID or password. The Online Reporting System may not work properly if such characters are used. These include: ! @ # $ % ^ & * ( ) < >

If your problem does not pertain to using unusual characters within your Wisconsin User ID or password, please contact: Wisconsin User ID by Email [exit DNR] or refer to the Wisconsin User ID Frequently Asked Questions [exit DNR].

23. I am unable to obtain a Wisconsin User ID, what should I do?

Contact WAMS ID staff [exit DNR].

24. If I report using the new Online Reporting System, do I need to send in the paper forms too?

No. If you submit your water use reporting using the new online system, you do not need to send the paper forms. It is strongly recommended that you print a summary of your reporting via the Online Reporting System to keep for your records.

25. I forgot my Wisconsin User ID. What do I do now? I still have my access code.

Your access code is only necessary for the first time you log in to the Online Reporting System. Once you log into our System, we know you by your Wisconsin User ID and your access code is no longer valid. Refer to the question # 15 if you don't remember your Wisconsin User ID.

Public water supply

26. Why do some community water supply systems have to report pumpage data twice to the DNR?

Some community water systems have to report water withdrawals twice - once with their monthly operating reports sent to the public water supply program monthly and again to the water use program. The DNR is working to eliminate this duplication. Currently, the monthly reporting does not collect all the information required by the new statutes.

27. How is property defined for public water suppliers?

If the wells are in a single water supply service area and are used for municipal water supply, all of the wells are considered to be within one property (and will pay fees accordingly). For municipalities, their “property” is the water supply service area or the geographical area to which they serve water.

28. I am classified as an Other Than Municipal (OTM) water source (Mobile Home Parks, Condos, etc). Do I need to report my water usage?

If you have a water supply system with the capacity to withdraw 100,000 gallons a day or more, you will need to register and report your water withdrawals. This is roughly equivalent to a well or combination of wells with the capacity to withdraw 70 gallons per minute. If you received a Water Withdrawal Report and you have a capacity of less than 70 gallons per minute, please contact the water use help line at 608-266-2299. We will work with you to verify this information (with our records, regional staff, and your records) and then will remove you from the system if you do not meet these requirements.

Permitting

29. Do I need a water use permit?

If your withdrawal is located in the Great Lakes basin (Lake Superior and Lake Michigan) and you plan to withdraw at an average of 100,000 gallons per day or more in any 30-day period from the sources on your property, then you must apply and receive a water use permit prior to withdrawing water. Permits are required since December 8, 2011.

30. What is a “baseline”?

The baseline is the amount of water that is grandfathered to an existing water withdrawer, and is equal to the maximum approved level of withdrawal as of December 8, 2008. A baseline is a fixed number that does not change.

31.What is the “withdrawal amount”?

The withdrawal amount is the maximum approved withdrawal as set forth in a Water Use permit. This number may change through a permit modification.

32. Is the withdrawal amount the maximum I'm allowed to withdraw?

You are authorized to withdraw up to your withdrawal amount according to the requirements of your Water Use permit, unless other approvals or permits issued by the Department restrict this amount. All other permits and approvals that you have received for the withdrawal(s) remain in effect. The Water Use permit does not replace or change any of the conditions or requirements of the other permits or approvals.

33. I believe that the withdrawal amount in my permit is incorrect. How do I request that it be corrected?

If you believe the withdrawal amount was calculated in error (e.g. - a household well was missing), please provide written documentation of the error to the Department within 30 days of the date of the notice of coverage or permit.

34. If I add a well or increase my pump capacity, but I don't plan to withdraw more than my current withdrawal amount, do I need to amend my Water Use permit?

No. You only need to apply to amend your Water Use permit if you plan to withdraw more than the established withdrawal amount in your permit.

35. What if I want to increase my withdrawal amount, but do not want to change my pump capacity?

You will need to apply to the Department to increase your withdrawal amount. In addition, if you have a high capacity well approval or Chapter 30 permit you may also need to request changes to those approvals.

36. Why did I qualify for an automatic permit?

You qualified for an automatic permit if you had a water withdrawal before December 8, 2008 at the level requiring a permit and this withdrawal was registered with the Water Use Program.

37. I was automatically issued a permit; however, I do not plan to withdraw at the level requiring a permit. What do I need to do to have the permit terminated?

You may request at any time to have your permit terminated by sending a written request to the Department. The request must include the owner’s contact information, Water Use property number, the owner’s or authorized representative’s signature, and the following statement: “As the owner or authorized representative of this property, I do not plan to withdraw water at the level requiring a permit and request that the Water Use permit be terminated. I understand that terminating the Water Use permit will result in the termination of the baseline and that if I plan to withdraw at the level requiring a permit that I will need to apply for a new permit.”

38. I was issued an Automatic Individual Permit, but I do not plan to withdraw at that level. How do I request to be covered under a General Permit instead?

You may request at any time to have your permit changed from an Individual Permit to being covered under a General Permit by sending a written request to the Department. The request must include the owner’s contact information, Water Use property number, the owner’s or authorized representative’s signature, and the following statement: “As the owner or authorized representative of this property, I request to be covered under a General Water Use permit instead of an Individual Water Use permit. I understand that the general permit covers withdrawals averaging 100,000 gallons per day or more in any 30-day period but that do not equal at least 1,000,000 gallons per day for any 30 consecutive days from a property. If I plan to withdraw at the level requiring an individual permit, I will need to apply for a new permit.”

39. If I terminate my Water Use permit, will I still have to pay Water Use Fees?

Maybe. With limited exceptions, you must register a water withdrawal if you have a water supply system with the capacity to withdraw 100,000 gallons per day. Water Use Fees are required for all registered withdrawals statewide.

40. What if I no longer own the property for which this permit was issued?

Please contact the Department to have the permit transferred to the new owner. You will need to submit the annual withdrawal reporting information for the timeframe that you owned the property to the Department prior to the transfer of the permit.

41. What if I am a new owner who bought a property with a water supply system that existed before 2008? Will I be issued an automatic permit?

You will be issued an automatic permit if the Department has received a completed High Capacity Well Ownership Change Form [PDF] for a high capacity well property or a written notification of property ownership change for a surface water withdrawal.

Last revised: Wednesday May 04 2016