Isolation distances to protect water quality

Water quality can be impacted on Michigan farms by virtue of distance the practice has to surface water and wells.

Farms, regardless of their size, have an impact to water quality. The key is for your farm to minimize the negative impacts. State and federal rules and guidelines are designed to protect water quality but it is up to the farms to ensure that their farms meet those guidelines. Farm management practices may be changed to accommodate rules and guidelines. The challenge for many farms is that the farmstead itself.

Isolation distances vary from structure or practice depending on the threat that they have to ground and surface water. The size and whether the structure/ tank have secondary containment play a role in the distance. The following chart gives a recommended minimum isolation distance for a few practices.

Fuel-<1,100 gal. For those greater refer to MSUE bulletin WQ-59 Manure Storage Livestock Lot Silage
Distance from water well- Single Family  50 feet *  150  50  300
Distance from water well- Type IIb or Type III dairy or farm with employees  800 feet 800 feet; 70 feet to 800 feet with approved protective measures  75  300
Distance from water well- Type I community or Type IIa non-community  2,000 feet  800 feet; 70 feet800 feet with approved protective measures  75  300
School, church, hospital, theatre, nursing home, adult foster care facility, home for the aged, prison  300 feet 800 feet; 70 feet800 feet with approved protective measures  75  300
Distance from surface water  50 feet; 0 feet with proper secondary containment  300  75 feet  300

* Bold indicates federal or state law

Unfortunately for some farms it is difficult to meet the standards set up by federal and state lawmakers. For example dairy farm wells are considered Type III Public Well under the Michigan Well Code. This poses a challenge because under the rule isolation distance from the well to most of the farm’s structures and practices is 800 feet. Most farms can not meet these isolation distances. In response the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality established criteria that will allow certain practices and structures to be within the 800 feet isolation distance as long as the site and structure meet certain conditions.

Before you make any changes on your farmstead consult your local MSU Extension Educator, Natural Resource Conservation Service District Conservationist or Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) technician. For any questions in regards to fuel regulations obtain a free copy of Michigan State University Extension Bulletin WQ-59, On-Farm Fuel Storage at MSU‘s Bookstore by typing in “fuel storage” in the search. For questions regarding best management practices visit the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development website.


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