Water Use

Obtaining a Licence

The Water Use Licensing Section, has the responsibility for allocating the use of water resources within the province. Any individual or corporation who wishes to use water for agricultural, municipal, industrial, irrigation or other purposes must first obtain a license. (Use of surface water and groundwater for domestic purposes does not require a Water Rights Licence unless consumption exceeds 25,000 Litres, the equivalent of 5,500 Imperial Gallons, per day.)

Definitions

Groundwater:
 

Groundwater refers to water that comes from an aquifer and is accessed by a well, spring, or groundwater-fed dugout. It is located below the ground surface.

Surface Water:

Surface water refers to water that comes from a river, lake, creek, etc. or spring run-off. It is located on the ground surface.

Agricultural Purposes:s

Agricultural purposes means the use of water at a rate of more than 25,000 Litres per day for the production of primary agricultural products, but does not include the use of water for irrigation purposes.

Domestic Purposes:

Domestic purposes means the use of water, obtained from a source other than a municipal or community water distribution system, at a rate of not more than 25,000 Litres per day, for household and sanitary purposes, for watering lawns and gardens, and watering livestock and poultry. Note: A licence is not required for domestic purposes unless the rate exceeds 25,000 Litres per day.

Industrial Purposes:

Industrial purposes means the use of water obtained from a source other than a municipal or community water distribution system, for operation of an industrial plant producing goods or services other than primary agricultural products. It does not include the sale or barter of water for those purposes or the use of water for recreation.

Irrigation Purposes:

Irrigation purposes means the use of water at a rate of more than 25,000 Litres per day for the artificial application to soil to supply moisture essential to plant growth.

Municipal Purposes:

Municipal purposes means the use of water by a municipality or a community for the purpose of supplying a municipal or community water distribution system for household and sanitary purposes, for industrial use or uses related to industry, for watering streets, walks, paths, boulevards, lawns and gardens, for protection of property, for flushing sewers and for other purposes usually served by a municipal or community water distribution system.

Other Purposes:

Other purposes means the use of water for purposes that do not fit into any of the above noted categories. Some examples include recreation, fire fighting and air heating/cooling systems.

Water Rights Licensing Process

To apply for a Water Rights Licence, download an application form from this website. Mail the completed application form along with the applicable fee (cheque or money order made payable to the Minister of

Box 42, 200 Saulteaux Crescent
Cashiers Office & Finance) to:
Manitoba Sustainable Development
Winnipeg, Manitoba
R3J 3W3

A separate licence is required for each source (and/or location) from which water is to be obtained. Applications for water use will be reviewed by the Water Use Licensing Section to determine the availability of unallocated water at the named location.

After you submit an application for a Water Rights License, a representative of the Water Use Licensing Section may contact you to clarify your proposal. A longer period of time may be required for the review of more complex proposals, especially a water supply assessment is required. Please see the Guide to Groundwater Withdrawals for more detailed information.

Licenses are issued for a time period appropriate for the situation to a maximum of 20 years, and may be renewed upon application. A valid license (or in some cases written authorization for temporary water use) under the act is required before water can be diverted and/or used for the proposed project. Licenses or authorizations are only valid once they are signed by a delegated staff person on behalf of the minister.

NOTE: There are no verbal approvals or authorizations for the construction of works or diversion of water.

Water Use Fees

Water use fees currently apply to industrial and "other" (e.g. recreation and heating/cooling systems, etc.) purposes only. Municipal, agricultural and irrigation projects are exempt. Fees are levied for annual water use under the WRA Regulations which came into effect on April 18, 1987. The water use fees are designed to make major users more aware of their rate of consumption and encourage conservation, where applicable.

Use this calculator to estimate your Annual Water Use Charges Under The Water Rights Act.

FAQs

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 most 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 development 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 the development of a licensed water supply.
  • 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 of a licensed water supply.
  • A water rights licence specifies the terms and conditions under which a right to use water is established for the purposes of a defined project.

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.

How do I report water supply concerns?

Call the Water Use Licensing Section at 204-945-3983 or email us at wateruse@gov.mb.ca to report your concerns.

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 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 Minister, 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 water use fees or not following the terms and conditions of the license.

A Water Rights Licence does not guarantee 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 guarantee that the water is or will remain potable.