High capacity well
Section NR 812.07(53), 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), Wisconsin Administrative Code, prior department approval is necessary for the construction, reconstruction, or operation of a high capacity well system, school well or wastewater treatment plant well. Prior approval is also necessary before a high capacity well or well system can be operated after a change of ownership.
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.
- Instructions for high capacity well application
- Dewatering well system guidance
- Accurately locating high capacity wells using GPS
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:
- Form #3300-295 - Application for high capacity well approval (Also use this form for school wells and wastewater treatment plant wells.)
- Form #3300-295A - Potable attachment (Required if a proposed well is potable.)
- Form #3300-258 - High capacity dewatering well application
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.
Groundwater quantity protection rule
Wisconsin Administrative Code NR 820 establishes review criteria for high capacity well applications involving wells proposed to be constructed near springs, trout streams, outstanding resource waters, and exceptional resource waters, and involving groundwater withdrawals with high water loss. It defines conditions under which a formal Environmental Assessment must be conducted.
- NR 820
- To learn about trout streams, please read Trout streams
- To learn about Water Quality Standards for Wisconsin Surface Waters, see NR 102
High capacity well reviews
The DNR reviews each application for a new high capacity well to determine whether the well, along with other area high capacity wells, would result in significant adverse environmental impacts to waters of the state – which includes all streams, lakes, wetlands and public and private wells. Following completion of a technical review, if the DNR determines the well could directly result in significant adverse environmental impacts, the DNR would either deny the well application or impose conditions on the construction and operation of the well to prevent such impacts. The DNR bases the need to impose conditions or deny an application on the projected impacts to the affected water resource, e.g., estimated reductions in stream flow or lake level, and the resultant impacts to water temperature, the fishery and other ecological aspects of the stream or lake. In conducting these assessments, DNR considers site-specific hydrogeology, separation distance between the well(s) and the water resource, the hydrology and characteristics of potentially-affected surface waters, construction details of nearby wells, characteristics of the proposed wells such as construction, pump capacity, and the water use and pumping schedule for the proposed well and any other existing wells on the property.
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.
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:
- Read Guidance on acceptable means of measuring and estimating pumpage from private high capacity wells
- You may report your water use online or by completing paper forms mailed to you from the Water Use Program
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.
- Find information about well filling and sealing
- Search for completed well filling and sealing reports
- Grants available for well abandonment
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