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Homeowner help
for private wells.
Property transfers
and inspections.
Drillers and installers
resources and information.
drinking and groundwater.

High capacity well

Section NR 812.07(53) [exit DNR], Wisconsin Administrative Code defines a high capacity well system as one or more wells, drillholes or mine shafts on a property that have a combined approved pump capacity of 70 or more gallons per minute. A property is defined as contiguous or adjacent land having the same owner.

Prior approval needed

In accordance with Sections NR 812.09(4)(a) & (b) [exit DNR], Wisconsin Administrative Code, prior department approval is necessary for the construction or operation of a high capacity well system, school well or wastewater treatment plant well.

Application fees for high capacity well and construction dewatering well system approval requests

An applicant requesting approval for construction or operation of a high capacity well or well system must submit a $500 application review fee made payable to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, along with the high capacity well or dewatering system application. Applications and fees should be mailed to the address listed in the upper left hand corner of the application forms or in the instruction packages found below.

Application forms

An application for a high capacity well system, well for a school or well for a wastewater treatment plant should be made on the appropriate form, as follows:

Paper copies of forms may be requested at 608-266-2299, or by faxing a request to the Private Water Systems Section at 608-267-7650, or by mail to the Private Water Systems Section, WDNR DG/2, P.O. Box 7921, Madison WI 53707-7921. Paper copies of the requested form will be mailed to the requester the next business day.

High capacity well application review

On May 10, 2016 Wisconsin's Attorney General issued a formal opinion on the Department's review authority of high capacity well applications [exit DNR]. Two key conclusions from the Attorney General's opinion are:

  • DNR may impose conditions or requirements on high capacity well approvals only if the agency has explicit permission or an explicit requirement to do so in statute or rule; and
  • DNR does not have explicit authority to consider cumulative impacts or to impose monitoring requirements on high capacity well approvals.

As a result of the opinion, in addition to determining whether the proposed well meets well construction requirements, the DNR will review each high capacity well application to determine whether the proposed high capacity well:

  • is within a groundwater protection area (within 1,200 feet of a class 1, 2 or 3 trout stream or a designated outstanding or exceptional resource water);
  • may impact springs with flow greater or equal to one cubic foot per second;
  • will result in water loss greater than 95 percent;
  • will result in 10 or more feet of water level drawdown in the public utility well based on 30 days of continuous pumping from the proposed high capacity well or well system; and
  • will degrade safe drinking water and the groundwater resource or impact public safety.

The applications that meet the criteria listed above will be subject to an environmental review process and any approval will include conditions to ensure the well does not result in significant adverse environmental impacts and may require preparation of an environmental impact statement. In addition, if any of these conditions is met, the DNR may include specific conditions in the high capacity well approval, which may include conditions as to location, depth, pumping capacity, rate of flow and ultimate use.

Water use permits in the Great Lakes Basin

If the high capacity well or system is located in the Great Lakes Basin, a Water Use Permit is needed to withdraw water as required by Wisconsin Statutes implementing the Great Lakes - St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact (s. 281.346). The Water Use Program will mail permitting information to high capacity well applicants.

Pumpage reporting

Owners of high capacity wells are required by law to report the volume of water withdrawn from their wells on an annual frequency. See below for more details concerning reporting your water withdrawals each year:

Well filling and sealing information

Unused wells and wells that are not properly filled and sealed pose a great threat to the safety and quality of groundwater drinking water supplies.

High capacity well inventory

We will continue to update the high capacity well database with information supplied by well owners.

Contact information
For information on high capacity wells, NR820 and well locations, contact:
Water use program staff
Last revised: Thursday August 17 2017