Official State of Iowa Website Here is how you know

Water Allocation and Use Program

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.

Contact Information

Michael K. Anderson, P.E.,
Senior Environmental Engineer

Fax Number: 515-725-8202

Mailing Address:
Iowa Department of Natural Resources
Water Supply Engineering Section
6200 Park Ave Ste 200
Des Moines, IA 50321-1371

Water Allocation Program

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  The permit lists the amount of water allowed to be withdrawn each year by the permittee, and is valid for 10 years.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.

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.

A water storage permit may be needed for an impoundment behind a dam. Please see the Iowa DNR Dam Safety Program for more information.

Technical Information


The following applications and forms are associated with a Water Use Permit.There are two types of fees for Water Use Permits, which are used to support the program's efforts: 1. an application fee and 2. an annual fee.






Dry streambed during drought of 2012

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.

These 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

Water Quantity

Water quantity – how much water Iowa has available – continues to change and the tracking and management of water quantity is important. We must continually plan for the long-term water needs in the state.

The pattern of demand on water supplies has changed. Updated planning is needed to avoid water shortages, crises, and conflicts between water users in the future. The key is to update the plan regularly to account for new water uses as they emerge and changes in our knowledge of the resource.

Water Wise is a 64-page handbook on water conservation and efficiency measures, prepared by the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities to promote water efficiency planning and capacity development by Iowa's water and wastewater utilities. The Water Wise Calculator
is a spreadsheet for use with the handbook, to assist a system in developing its water conservation plan.

Additional resources:
Water Rights and Allocation - A Subset of the Iowa Water Plan (2010)
Water Resource Management: Dakota Aquifer
Iowa Water Quantity Presentation Challenges
Iowa Water Law Presentation 10/9/07

Older historical planning resources:
Iowa Groundwater Protection Strategy (1987)
1985 Iowa Water Plan
1978 Iowa Water Plan: Pages 1-74 (18.6 MB)
1978 Iowa Water Plan: Pages 75-155 (23.6 MB)
1978 Iowa Water Plan: Pages 156-226 (22.5 MB)