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Water Allocation and Use Program

Mississippi RiverMichael K. Anderson, P.E., Senior Environmental Engineer
Telephone: 515-725-0336     E-mail: 
Michael.Anderson@dnr.iowa.gov

Online Permit System (OPS) 

Program Description

The authority for regulating water allocation arises from the State's mission to protect public health and welfare.  The use of water by one person can affect other nearby water users and the general public. 

All waters, both surface and groundwater, are "public waters and public wealth" of Iowa citizens.  Iowa statute provides an allocation system based on the concept of "beneficial use."  The key points are:

  • Water resources are to be put to beneficial use to the fullest extent possible.
  • Waste, unreasonable use, and unreasonable methods of water use are prevented.
  • Water conservation is expected.
  • Minimum instream flows are protected.

Iowa's water allocation program attempts to sort through various competing uses, through use of the following.

  • A permitting program to ensure consistency in decisions on the use of water, i.e., Water Use Permits.
  • Provisions for public involvement in issuing water allocation permits and establishing water use policies.
  • An administrative procedure to resolve water use conflicts.

Water Use Permits are issued to convey the "right" to use the water if the use can be shown to be "beneficial."  A Water Use Permit is required of any person or entity that withdraws at least 25,000 gallons in a 24-hour period during any calendar year.  The permit lists the amount of water allowed to be withdrawn each year by the permittee, and is valid for 10 years.  The Water Use Permit also requires that a Water Use Report be submitted each year to the Iowa DNR.  Water Use Permits are typically issued to public water supply systems, industries, agricultural business, irrigation (both agricultural and golf courses), recreational areas, gravel quarry dewatering, etc.

There are two other types of Water Use Permits: Storage and Registration of a Minor Non-Recurring Use of water. 

  • A Storage Water Use Permit is issued for storage of water behind a retaining structure (i.e., a dam) in an impoundment.  A storage permit is required for the storage of 18-acre-feet or more of water in permanent storage.  This would include any impoundment providing water for a public water supply system.  No storage permit can be issued by the DNR until the plans and specifications for the impounding structure have been approved, which assures no permit is issued for what would be found to be an unsafe or impractical structure.  It also has the administrative effect of assuring that the allocation and storage permits are issued dependent upon the time schedule of the DNR's Water Resource Section’s review and approval.  When a water use or allocation permit is being prepared for a surface water supply reservoir, it is combined with the storage permit and both permits are issued concurrently.
  • A Registration of a Minor Non-Recurring Use of water is required for projects where at least 25,000 gallons of water is used in a 24-hour period but which are of no more than a one-year duration, such as well drilling, highway construction activities, etc.

The following applications and forms are associated with a Water Use Permit.  The forms are available in both .doc and .pdf format.

Water Use Applications and Forms
Name Form Number *.doc *.pdf
To apply for a new Water Use Permit or to modify an existing permit 542-3106 New or Modified Water Use Permit Application, 542-3106, in doc format New or Modified WU Permit Application, 542-3106, in pdf format
To apply for a permit to store water 542-3109 Application to Store Water, 542-3109, in doc format Application for a Storage Permit, 542-3109, in pdf format 
To apply for a registration of minor non-recurring use of water 542-3112 Registration of Minor Non-recurring Water Use, 542-3112, in doc format  Application for Registration of Minor Non-Recurring Water Use, 542-3112, in pdf format 
To renew an existing permit 542-1470 Renewal of an Existing Water Use Permit, 542-1470, in doc format Renewal of an Existing Water Use Permit, 542-1470, in pdf format 
Annual water use report form, including instructions 542-3115 Annual Water Use Report Form, 542-3115, in doc format  Annual Water Use Report Form, 542-3115, in pdf format 

Water Use Permit Fees

There are two types of fees for Water Use Permits, which are used to support the program's efforts: an application fee and an annual fee. 

Water Use Permit Application Fees
Description Form  Number Fee
To apply for a new permit to withdraw or divert water 542-3106 $350
To renew an existing water use permit 542-1470 $0
To modify an existing permit to either add a new source or increase the amount or rate of water withdrawn or diverted from a source or sources 542-3106 $350
To modify the conditions of an existing permit which are not described in the previous item 542-3106 $0
To apply for an aquifer storage and recovery permit or a protected source designation N/A $700
To apply for a permit to store water 542-3109 $75
To register a minor non-recurring use of water 542-3112 $75

The Annual Water Use Permit Fee is set each year based upon the program's budget and is not to exceed $500,000.  The fee notice is sent in September and the fee is due by December 1st of the same year.  For 2012 (due 12/1/2011), the fee is $95.00 and is required of all water use permits except water use storage permits and minor non-recurring water use permits.

Water Use Conflicts

Examples of water use conflicts include the following:

  • The need to preserve instream flows.
  • The need to protect the level of natural lakes, and manage changes in the level of artificial lakes.
  • Well interference, which is the lowering of the water level in a well caused by the withdrawal of water at another location (usually a nearby well).
  • The decline in the level of the water table in areal groundwater, which are allocations resulting in long-term overdraft of the available resource.
  • The degradation of groundwater quality.

Newly Constructed WellThese types of conflicts may be exacerbated by dry conditions.  The technical term used in Iowa for dry conditions or drought is "triggering event," as defined in the Iowa Administrative Code (IAC) 567-subrule 52.10(2).  The Department has the authority to implement priority allocation restrictions if a triggering even has occurred.  The specifics of allocation restrictions are described in IAC 567-subrules 52.10(1) and (3), and were adopted following the 1985 Iowa Water Plan.

 Copies of the Well Interference Procedures/Compensation Guidance are available by contacting Michael Anderson at 515-725-0336 or Michael.Anderson@dnr.iowa.gov.

Mailing Address

The mailing address for the Water Use Program is:  Dam

Iowa Department of Natural Resources
Water Supply Engineering Section
Wallace State Office Building
502 E. 9th Street
Des Moines, IA 50319-0034

Fax Number: 515-725-0348    Reception Number: 515-725-0282


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