Michigan’s unreported large quantity water withdrawal registration initiative and related workshops

MDEQ offers an opportunity for never before registered large quantity water users to register withdrawals and area workshops allow producers to start the process.

In its 2015 report, Michigan’s Water Use Advisory Council suggested to the Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) that unreported large water withdrawals are a potential challenge to the future of the state’s water use program as well as to water users. In response, MDEQ has created an initiative for bringing unreported pre-October 1, 2008 large quantity withdrawals (LQWs) into the state’s water use accounting system. This opportunity for LQW users to register their withdrawals opened in January and will run through April 1, 2018. LQW use is defined as the capacity to pump more than 100,000 gallons per day (about 70 gallons per minute (gpm)). Water users will need to provide information on the location of their withdrawals and the rated capacity of pumps to establish baselines for water use in gpm.

Those water users who had LQWs prior to October 1, 2008, but have never reported those withdrawals will need to provide MDEQ with proof of location and ownership and sufficient information to prove that the withdrawal existed prior to October 1, 2008. Examples of proof of existence prior to 2008 could include bills of installation or systems repair bills, fuel or energy bills stating location, crop production contracts with wordage requiring irrigation, well logs or well records dated prior to October 1, 2008.

Historic aerial maps may be valuable sources of proof that irrigation existed before October 1, 2008. Historic maps from the United State Department of Agriculture and seed/vegetable production companies are available in some areas. The basic version of Google Earth mapping tools allows producers to find an aerial view of their farm currently and then, using the historic function, roll back through available aerial maps of the site, which could prove date of construction of irrigation systems and pump installations. Google offers excellent online training materials for the historic map function of their Google Earth tools.

Challenges for allocating water for a new LQW request have been experienced in many of the watersheds in Michigan’s most heavily irrigated areas. Some of the state’s watersheds are only two or three LQW requests away from, or have already reached the limit allowed in state law.

After April 1, 2018, any unregistered LQW that existed prior to October 1, 2008 will be forced to come into the system as a new water user, which will require going through the screening process and being subject to the new withdrawal limits. This is particularly important for those who require a replacement well, since the older well’s status will not be recognized. Many surface water withdrawals will be replaced by wells in the future to meet food safety requirements for human consumption crops. If these surface water LQWs are not registered, the replacement wells will be required to enter the system as a new use.

Four workshops focusing on unreported LQW withdrawal registration and reporting are offer across the state. These meetings will provide opportunities for Large Quantity Water Users (LQWU) to speak with representatives from MDEQ about issues involving current and past LQWU registrations. Dates and locations are:

  • March 21, 2017 - 9 am—2 pm at MSU Extension, 612 E. Main St, Centreville, MI 4903
  • March 22, 2017 - 4 pm—8 pm at Branch Area Career Center, 366 Morse St., Coldwater MI 49036
  • March 23, 2017 - 9 am—2 pm at Lawrence Skill Center, 250 South St., Lawrence MI 49064
  • March 24, 2017 - 9 am—2 pm at Montcalm Extension Office, 211 W. Main St., Stanton MI 48888

For more information on the Unreported Large Quantity Water Withdrawal Registration Initiative see the fact sheet with the same title or find the forms and Q&A document from MDEQ.