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Water Allocation and Use Program

NOTE: Until further notice, we are unable to accept water use permit applications through postal mail or other delivery services. There are still two ways available to submit the application: 

  • Apply and pay for a permit online in the WACOP application, or 
  • Submit a scan of any hardcopy permit application using email to wateruse@dnr.iowa.gov. Email attachment size is limited to 25 MB. Use zip files or other options to submit attachments greater than 25 MB and communicate that in your email submittal. Upon email submission, a credit card payment over the telephone will be arranged with DNR’s Customer Service. 

Contact wateruse@dnr.iowa.gov if you have any questions.

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.

WACOP - Water Use Application

Renewing Your Permit

The following video covers procedures for renewing the water use permit and explains the various parts of the renewal form.

Water Use: Completing the Report Form, Part 1
Watch on YouTube for CC
Water Use: Completing the Report Form, Part 2
Watch on YouTube for CC
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
Wallace State Office Building
502 E. 9th Street
Des Moines, IA 50319-0034

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.

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

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.


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 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

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 Michael.Anderson@dnr.iowa.gov.

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)