The administration and enforcement of water laws, rules and policies that ensure the sustainability of the resource and protect established water rights of applicants are of utmost importance to the prosperity and welfare of the state’s citizens. The State Engineer, assisted by the Water Appropriation Division of the North Dakota State Water Commission, are charged with managing the use of the state’s waters as directed under Chapter 61-04 of North Dakota’s Century Code, and Article 89-03 of the State Administrative Code.
NDCC 61-04-02 requires that all water uses except for domestic, livestock, fish, wildlife, and other recreational uses (unless the aforementioned are greater than 12.5 acre-feet per year) apply for a water permit before putting water to beneficial use. Set procedures are mandated by NDCC and regulations.
The Water Appropriations Division guides applicants through the water permit application and public comment process. Each application is then assigned to a hydrologist/engineer responsible for the area or for the specific water resource requested.
Criteria evaluated by the Appropriations Division, specified under NDCC 61-04-06, are:
- The rights of a prior appropriator will not be unduly affected.
- The proposed means of diversion or construction are adequate.
- The proposed use of water is beneficial.
- The proposed appropriation is in the public interest. In determining the public interest the following shall be considered:
- The benefit to the applicant.
- The effect of economic activity resulting from the proposed appropriation.
- The effect on fish and game resources and public recreational opportunities.
- The effect of loss of alternate uses of water that might be made within a reasonable time if not precluded or hindered by the proposed appropriation.
- Harm to others resulting from the proposed appropriation.
- The intent and ability of the applicant to complete the appropriation.
Evaluations of water use applications are comprehensive, and may require several months in areas where water supplies are limited and critical, or where substantive issues have been raised in public comments.
Factors affecting the availability of water include: the amount of the request, the size of the water supply, whether the source is ground water or surface water, the period of use, the proximity of prior water appropriators, the locations of recharge and discharge areas, possible water quality impacts caused by diversion of water, and probable long-term effects of climatic variation on local water supplies.
In highly competitive settings or where hydrologic data are sparse, further exploratory drilling and data acquisition may be needed. The development of appropriate ground water models is generally required in highly competitive settings. In some critical cases, evaluations may require several years. The Appropriations Division drafts a recommendation to the State Engineer for approval, denial, or in some cases to hold all or part of an application in abeyance until sufficient information is available to support a definitive answer. The draft recommendation is submitted for review to “parties of record” who have expressed concern during the comment period. “Parties of record” may request information or an adjudicative hearing if they have further concerns over an application.
Water Permit Applications
Guidance For Ground and Surface Water Management/Permitting
Water Permits Database
Provides access to available information for water permits that have been issued in North Dakota.
InformationSurface Water Hydrologist Project Area Map
For more information, please contact the Water Appropriation Division at (701) 328-2754 or e-mail.