Water Allocation

The DNREC Water Allocation Branch oversees major water withdrawals, greater than 50,000 gallons per day, from any surface water or groundwater source in Delaware.

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Water Supply Assessment and Protection Program

Water Allocation Regulations

The Branch conducts long-term water supply planning and water conservation efforts, in coordination with public and private sector partners. And it collects, manages and evaluates water use data for more than 500 public, industrial, and irrigation systems located throughout the state.

Water use data collected by the Branch is essential for resource management and various agencies’ planning programs. During drought the program is especially important for controlling scarce water supplies and managing industrial consumption and public water demand.


A permit is required for all major water withdrawals under the state’s Water Allocation Regulations. The Branch publishes instructions and guidance for completing a water allocation permit application. A separate permit is required for water impoundments.

A formal water allocation permit is not necessary for minor surface water withdrawals less than 50,000 gallons per day. These include filling water trucks from ponds or streams for dust control, for hydroseeding, or for drilling. They include homeowners who have access to ponds for lawn and garden irrigation. For these withdrawals, applicants simply need to provide their name and address, and the location and duration of the withdrawal using the one-page short form application. Minor groundwater withdrawals are authorized by the well construction permit.

As long as adequate supply is available for the proposed demand, and no harmful effect is anticipated, an equitable water allocation will be granted. This permit precludes a future allocation to another user if it would cause a harmful diversion of water from the permit holder. Likewise, all permit holders who affect another person’s supply are obligated to restore that supply.

If the allocation leads to resource damage, for example by causing salt-water intrusion into the aquifer, the permit can be modified or rescinded as necessary.

A decision on an alleged supply interference or the resolution of other allocation disputes will be determined by DNREC via a hearing process. Based on the record of the hearing, the Secretary of DNREC makes a determination. That decision may be appealed to the Environmental Appeals Board for reconsideration.

Withdrawals in the Delaware River Basin

If a withdrawal is in the jurisdiction of the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), and will withdraw more than 100,000 gallons per day, a separate approval from the DRBC is also required. If you are uncertain about whether your project is under DRBC jurisdiction, please refer to the State Basin Map to locate your project.   If located within the DRBC jurisdiction the applicant should contact the DRBC for application procedures.

Equal Standing

All uses of water have equal standing for allocation purposes, as long as the water is used beneficially and not wasted. In only two cases can an authorized water use be re-allocated. One is if the allocation is not being used. (This does not apply to seasonal irrigation usage). The other is during a drought emergency when supplies can be re-allocated to protect the public.

Permit Transfer

As long as the terms of the permit and the allocation remain unchanged, a permit may be transferred to a different owner by applying with a Water Allocation Transfer form.

Water Use Reporting

Permit holders are required to record and report water usage each year. Public, Industrial, Irrigation, Golf Course, and Commercial users report monthly production for each water facility (well or intake) and a system summary of total monthly production for all facilities. Other information such as water levels, withdrawal rates, water transfers, and leak-losses are also required to be reported.

All water users in the public, industrial, and commercial sectors required to submit a water use report for each individual facility to report withdrawals from each well or intake.

Different system summary reports are required depending on the type and location of the withdrawals.

Permit-holders for irrigation uses only need to submit an Irrigation Water Use Record covering the period of March through November.