Manitoba
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Water Stewardship Division

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Water Use Licensing - Frequently Asked Questions

 
Who owns the water in Manitoba?

The Crown in Manitoba controls use and diversion of water throughout the province. Permission (or rights) to use water is obtained by license or authorization under The Water Rights Act (The WRA).

The Water Use Licensing Section has the responsibility for allocating, under The WRA, the use of water resources within the province. The WRA gives all property owners equal access to water on a first come, first served basis.

Do I need a licence or authorization to use water?

If you use water for municipal or industrial purposes, or if you use more than 25,000 Litres per day for all other purposes, you must first obtain permission from the Water Use Licensing Section.

The Water Use Licensing Section allocates water to existing projects by licence and to developing projects by permit or authorization.

What is the difference between an exploration permit, a development authorization and a license?
  • A groundwater exploration permit specifies the terms and conditions under which construction of water well(s) and withdrawal of groundwater is permitted for the purposes of exploration.
  • A development authorization specifies the terms and conditions under which construction of works and withdrawal of surface water is permitted for the purposes of development.
  • A water rights licence specifies the terms and conditions under which a right to use water for the purposes of a defined project.
What are works?

Works are defined under The Water Rights Act, as any excavation, well structure, plant, operation or contrivance that diverts, or may divert, or is likely to divert water. Works may generally be described as anything placed in an aquifer or surface water body and used to convey water to the place of use.

What access does Water Use Licensing Section have to works?

The minister, or a person authorized by the minister, may enter any land to inspect any works or water control works constructed or established, or being constructed, established or maintained, by a licensee or permit holder. The minister, or a person authorized by the minister, may also enter land to investigate a suspected or alleged contravention of this act or the regulations.

What is the significance of the first-in-time, first-in-right principle?

Licences have precedence in relation to the date of submission of the application of each license. A licence that is renewed in accordance with the regulation retains the precedence established in the original license. Note that a licensee is governed by the rights of all pre-established licensees and pre-established domestic users who have priority.

What happens to a license when land is sold?

Where an estate or interest in land is transferred, any subsisting licence relating to the estate or interest expires automatically as of the date of transfer, unless the minister, upon the application of the transferee, transfers the licence to the transferee.

What is a reservation of water?

The minister may reserve unlicensed water so that a survey may be made showing how the water may be used or diverted to the greatest advantage for Manitobans. The minister may also reserve unlicensed water for such uses and purposes specified by the minister that, in his opinion, will be of the greatest advantage to the residents of the province. Where water has been reserved, the minister shall not issue a licence for this water except in accordance with the terms of the reservation.

How much water does the oil industry use in Manitoba?

Water use by the oil industry in Manitoba is illustrated in the attached document: (click to open)

How do I report water supply concerns?

Call the Water Use Licensing Section at 204-945-3983 to report your concerns. Your call will be re-directed to the appropriate licensing agent.

Agricultural irrigation system
Agricultural irrigation system

Rights and Obligations of Licensees

Industrial water user
What are the conditions of a water rights licence?

The terms and conditions of a typical water rights licence may include clauses concerning the following:

  • the name and location of the water source from which water may be taken or stored
  • the legal description of the intake location on the water source
  • the annual withdrawal rate
  • the maximum quantity of water which may be used in any one year
  • the purpose for which the water may be used
  • the installation of a meter or timing device on the water source
  • that records be kept and forwarded to the Water Use Licensing Section, either upon request or by February 1 of the following year
  • other clauses that may be required by the particular circumstances of the project

What rights do I have as a licensee?

Under The Water Rights Act, the holder of a water rights licence is provided with the right to:

  • use or divert water from a water body for a designated purpose
  • construct, maintain and operate works
  • receive written notice from the Water Use Licensing Section prior to cancellation or suspension of a water rights licence
  • subject to the approval of the minister, a person who has a licence to use or divert water for industrial, agricultural or irrigation purposes, may use or divert or permit others, with or without a fee or charge, to use or divert part of the water for domestic purposes

How are my rights protected?

It is an offence under The Water Rights Act to carry out the following activities:

  • divert water from a water body without authority
  • construct, maintain, operate or use works without authority
  • control water or construct, establish, operate, or maintain any water control works, unless he or she holds a valid license to do so

What are my obligations to maintain my water rights license in good standing?

A licensee is governed by The Water Rights Act and its regulations, the terms of the licence, the orders of the Executive Director, Regulatory and Operational Services Division the rights of all licensees and domestic users who have priority.

A licensee must use the water as prescribed in the license and construct authorized works within the time specified. Non-compliance with the conditions of the license can cause the license to be cancelled. A licensee must notify the Water Use Licensing Section about mailing address changes or if the land to which the licence applies is sold or subdivided.

A licensee is responsible for damage resulting from works constructed, operated or maintained, or from a defect, insufficiency or failure of the works, whether the license is in good standing, abandoned, suspended or cancelled.

Water use data is vital to ensure that the province's water resources are properly managed. That is why all water rights licenses contain a clause requiring the proponent to install a meter or timing device on the water source. Another clause requires records be kept and forwarded to the Water Use Licensing Section, either upon request or by February 1 of the following year.

Additional Considerations

Water Rights Licences are issued for terms of up to 20 - years. A license may be suspended or cancelled for many reasons, such as not making beneficial use of the water, not paying abstraction rentals or not following the terms and conditions of the license.

A Water Rights Licence does not assure that water will always be available. The license authorizes the diversion and use of a specified quantity of water, if available.

A Water Rights Licence does not assure that the water is or will remain potable. The Office of Drinking Water regulates issues pertaining to water potability.