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FAQ: Water Withdrawals

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Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy

FAQ: Water Withdrawals

The Water Use Program is responsible for registering large quantity withdrawals, collecting annual water use data, making determinations on the potential impacts to water resources as a result of proposed withdrawals, and processing water withdrawal permits. The information managed by the Water Use Program provides an environmental baseline for managing water resources in an integrated manner and strengthens the legal basis for opposing unwarranted diversions of Great Lakes water.

  • A Water Withdrawal Permit is required prior to beginning a new or increased withdrawal that will have:

    • more than 2,000,000 gallons per day (or 1,388 gallons per minute) withdrawal capacity
    • OR will transfer more than 100,000 gallons per day, averaged over any 90-day period, from the watershed of one Great Lake to the watershed of another Great Lake.

    Exceptions - these withdrawals aren't required to obtain a Water Withdrawal Permit:

    • community water supplies - contact your Community Water Supply Program district engineer instead
    • bottled water production - review the Bottled Water Source Approval requirements instead
    • seasonal withdrawals - active for no more than 6 months per year AND average less than 2,000,000 GPD water use in any 90-day period within their season of operation
    • temporary withdrawals - short term withdrawals that total less than 180,000,000 gallons water use for the entire withdrawal period.

    A Water Withdrawal Registration is required for a new or increased withdrawal less than or equal to 2,000,000 GPD (1,388 GPM) but greater than 100,000 GPD (or 70 GPM) in withdrawal capacity.

    Water Withdrawal Permit Application - all information on this application form, and a $2000 application fee is required. Please call 517-599-3792 or email prior to submitting a Water Withdrawal Permit application.

  • Registration of all large quantity water withdrawals is required in the State of Michigan. Large quantity withdrawals are defined as having the capacity to withdraw 100,000 gallons per day or more. That equates to a pump capacity of 70 gallons per minute or more and includes the combined total for all pumps on the property.

    Owners of prospective new or increased large quantity withdrawals are required to register with EGLE prior to beginning a withdrawal by using the online Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool. The Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool is a screening system that predicts whether a large quantity withdrawal is likely to cause an adverse resource impact to nearby streams or rivers. If the withdrawal passes the Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool screening system, it can be registered immediately and the registration receipt is EGLE authorization to make the withdrawal. If the proposed withdrawal doesn't pass the Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool, a site-specific review can be requested to pursue registration with the EGLE.

    The property owner also has the option to submit an alternative analysis instead of a EGLE site-specific review.

    Owners proposing new or increased withdrawals greater than 2,000,000 gallons per day must apply for a water withdrawal permit. Click this link for the water withdrawal permit application.

  • You can find additional information at or by reviewing EGLE's information guide on new large quantity withdrawals.

  • Landowners proposing new or increased large quantity withdrawals must register with EGLE prior to beginning a withdrawal. To assess whether an adverse resource impact (ARI) might result from the proposed withdrawal, the landowner’s first step is typically using the online Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool (WWAT).

    The WWAT screens for potential ARIs by conservatively estimating a withdrawal’s impact to nearby river and stream flow based on the withdrawal’s quantity, distance from the stream, and local geology and hydrology. If the withdrawal passes the WWAT screening system, it can be registered immediately, and the registration receipt officially authorizes the landowner to make the withdrawal. If the proposed withdrawal does not pass the WWAT, the landowner has two options. The first option is to request that EGLE perform a site-specific review, which is a more in-depth analysis of the proposed withdrawal’s impact on river and stream flows. The second option is to have a professional hydrologist or hydrogeologist (rather than EGLE) perform a similar analysis. Regardless of which option the landowner chooses, EGLE will conduct a more detailed review of the proposed withdrawal considering the best available data to estimate the impact of the proposed withdrawal and determine if it can be registered.

  • Water use reporting requirements for self-supplied large quantity water (LQW) users began in 1995 when Part 327 of the NREPA was enacted. Initially, only industrial and non-agricultural irrigation water users were required to report their use. Subsequent amendments to Part 327 required agricultural water users to report their use in 2004, and virtually all other previously unreported water users to report their use in 2006. As explained more fully below, due to the limited volume of withdrawals allowed within a water management area, unreported water users should register their LQWs as soon as possible.

  • Property owners were required to report their existing LQWs by April 1, 2009. Agricultural water users were required report their LQWs to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and all other water users were required to report their LQWs to EGLE.

  • Baseline capacity is defined at MCL § 324.32701(d). Generally, baseline capacity is the withdrawal capacity that was reported or registered by April 1, 2009. Baseline capacity is the total water withdrawal capacity a property owner had on February 28, 2006, prior to the legislative amendment that required assessment of new or increased large quantity water (LQWs). LQWs installed from March 1, 2006 to September 30, 2008 are essentially regulated in the same manner as baseline capacity withdrawals. Amendments to the water withdrawal assessment law were made with the intent to limit environmental impacts from new or increased withdrawals that commenced October 1, 2008 going forward.

  • The Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool (WWAT) uses an accounting database to:

    1. record LQW registrations authorized by the WWAT, site-specific reviews, and alternative analyses; and
    2. to track cumulative stream flow depletions resulting from LQW registrations by water management areas.

    The database is updated in real time so that the WWAT indicates the current balance of remaining stream flow for each water management area that is available for use.

  • Water withdrawals with the capacity to withdraw over 100,000 gallons per day and up to two million gallons per day can be registered through the Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool (WWAT), site-specific review, or the alternative analysis processes. Once registered, the withdrawal can be installed and operated. If the withdrawal is installed and/or operated differently than the conditions under which it was registered, the owner is required to update their registration to reflect the withdrawal as installed and operated.

    A proposed new or increased water withdrawal with a capacity of more than two million gallons per day must apply for and receive a permit from EGLE. Permits are also required for new or increased withdrawals greater than one million gallons per day in Zone C water management areas or intra-basin transfers greater than 100,000 gallons per day. Permits make up a small fraction (less than 1%) of the authorized water withdrawals.

  • Unregistered water users continue to reach out to EGLE or are discovered by EGLE on an ongoing basis. Unregistered large quantity waters (LQWs) are generally considered new withdrawals that must pass the assessment process and will need to be either registered or permitted to be operated. Unregistered LQWs are potentially subject to fines for failing to report and register.

    Due to the limited volume of withdrawals allowed within a water management area, water users should register their LQWs as soon as possible. When a previously unregistered LQW can be authorized, EGLE issues an after-the-fact registration to the property owner, sometimes referred to as an ATF registration. The property owner is reminded that they are required to report their water use annually to either the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development or EGLE. If an existing withdrawal cannot be authorized through the Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool (WWAT), site-specific review, or the alternative analysis, the owner must pursue their other options outlined in question below.

    EGLE has ongoing education and outreach efforts to bring unregistered LQWs into compliance. Education and outreach continue to be an important aspect of Michigan’s Water Use Program because new landowners may be unaware of Michigan’s water use reporting, registration and permitting processes.

  • EGLE staff provides alternative options for technical modifications and works with property owners during the site-specific review process prior to issuing a denial of registration to try to assist the applicant in a resolution. But if EGLE cannot approve a water withdrawal after a site-specific review or alternative analysis, the landowner has several options. Though the outcome of each of these options depends on the scenario and each case is unique, the landowner may:

    1. Propose modifications to the withdrawal request, such as changing the location and/or well depth, reducing the pumping rate, and/or changing the pumping schedule. Such changes could potentially lessen the withdrawal’s impact and avoid an adverse resource impact (ARI) condition.
    2. Hire a consultant to collect field data to better characterize the local hydrogeological and hydrological conditions, and/or to utilize a custom streamflow depletion model. Additional data and/or an appropriate alternative model could potentially yield favorable results that avoid an ARI condition. These options are available to pursue by submitting a new site-specific review or alternative analysis request or by applying for a Part 327 permit.
    3. Negotiate with other water users in a Water Users Committee (see question below) to share their allocation of water within the watershed and to accommodate the new user’s need for water. There are several ways to reduce withdrawal volume, including changing irrigation schedules or implementing higher efficiency irrigation practices.
    4. Apply for a permit and include proposals for measures to prevent an ARI. Permit applicants whose applications are denied can appeal via a contested case hearing with an administrative law judge. Administrative appeal rights are not available for site-specific review and alternative analysis requests.
    5. And finally, the person may assert common law riparian rights to a reasonable use of water in a civil lawsuit against other water users within the watershed. Under Michigan common law, all property owners have a right to reasonable use of water abutting or underlying their property.
  • The authorizing statute states Part 327 “shall not be construed as affecting, intending to affect, or in any way altering or interfering with common law water rights or property rights”. If a withdrawal triggers the permit requirement, among other requirements, the department must make a determination that the withdrawal represent a reasonable use of water pursuant to Michigan common law.

  • A WUC may be composed of all persons making large quantity water withdrawals (registrants, permitted and baseline withdrawals) and local government officials within a watershed. A local government official may also create a subcommittee of residents to solicit information and advice.

    WUCs provide a framework for the water users within a watershed to reach an agreement on how water resources will be shared. By working collaboratively to reduce their impact on the watershed and accommodate new or increased use by existing users, a WUC encourages prudent management of the shared water resources by the water users. A WUC gives water users direct input into the equitable management of water resources and solutions to prevent or resolve water use conflicts and adverse resource impacts (ARIs). The goal of a WUC is a voluntary, equitable agreement between water users. These agreements have the potential to avoid the expenses and uncertainties of litigating water rights, but with the advantages of avoiding legal expenses and delays and potentially achieving a more desirable outcome for water users.

  • WUCs can be convened under three scenarios:

    1. A water user may convene a WUC after EGLE denies a proposed new large withdrawal because it will likely cause an adverse resource impact (ARI). EGLE is willing to assist the water user and the WUC, if there is interest.
    2. EGLE may convene a WUC after it determines that an ARI is occurring or is likely to occur and no WUC already exists. EGLE will generally include all persons making larger quantity water withdrawals and local units of government in a WUC.
    3. Large quantity water users may convene a WUC to proactively manage local water resources and plan for future use.
  • The primary goal of a WUC is to work cooperatively to develop shared water-use solutions for the successful management of water resources that prevent or resolve water use conflicts and ARIs.

  • EGLE will provide all available information on registered withdrawals affecting the watershed including withdrawal capacity, historical and current reported water use, hydrogeological information, modeled streamflow depletion allotment, and streamflow monitoring data as permitted under the Freedom of Information Act (1976 PA 442, MCL §§ 15.231–15.246.)

    Agricultural water use data is reported in aggregate and individual data can only be released under limited circumstances. Therefore, individual agricultural water users would be encouraged to share their water use data to provide more accurate information about water use within the watershed.

  • EGLE has limited statutory authority to approve new or increased water withdrawals. If EGLE cannot approve the withdrawal after a WUC has been convened to resolve a water use dispute, a property owner may have the ability to assert their common law right to reasonable use of the water abutting or underneath their property. EGLE cannot provide legal advice to water users in water disputes. Property owners should seek the advice of their own attorneys.

  • In this situation, EGLE has statutory authority under [MCL § 324.32725(4)] to propose a plan that it believes equitably resolves the potential for an ARI. Though the plan is not binding on the members of the WUC, EGLE has other administrative and legal remedies that it may pursue if the water use issue remains unresolved. For example, EGLE may immediately order a temporary restriction of permitted withdrawals that pose a substantial and immediate threat. A process is set forth in the law for extension of the order and for area property owners to challenge the order. If there is not a substantial and immediate threat of an ARI, the Attorney General may commence a civil action under the statute and/or common law and ask the court to establish an equitable allocation of available water.

  • The discovery of new data might occur as a result of a site-specific review, alternative analysis, or compliance review. If a stream index flow review comes back with a significantly lower index flow, or the stream reach is reclassified into a more restrictive stream temperature classification, previously authorized large quantity waters (LQWs) may now deplete water levels to the point where an ARI is likely.

    If that happens, EGLE will meet with the watershed’s Water Users Committee (WUC) or convene a WUC if none exists.

    As in other situations, the WUC will seek a voluntary, equitable agreement on water use that prevents an ARI. As mentioned above, if the WUC cannot reach an agreement, EGLE can propose a plan. If that does not resolve the issue, EGLE has other administrative and legal remedies available.