Water Use

The purpose of the Manitoba water rights licensing scheme is to ensure the sustainable allocation of the province's water resources under The Water Rights Act and regulation.

The intent of water rights licensing is to protect the interests of licensees, existing domestic users, the general public and the environment with respect to the use or diversion of water. In Manitoba, water withdrawals (surface and groundwater) of less than 25,000 litres (5,500 imperial gallons) per day generally do not require licensing. These projects are protected under the domestic exemption. Licences are issued for municipal, agricultural, industrial, irrigation and "other" purposes. Projects that fall into the "other" category include non-domestic low temperature geothermal projects; aquaculture; fire protection; water bottling; water slides; dust suppression on road construction projects; large scale hydrostatic testing; recreation, etc.

Who requires a Water Use 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 licence.  Please note the use of surface water and groundwater for domestic purposes does not require a Water Rights Licence unless consumption exceeds 25,000 litres (5,500 imperial gallons) per day.

Definitions

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

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 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. Please note the use of water for domestic purposes does not require a Water Rights Licence unless consumption exceeds 25,000 litres (5,500 imperial gallons) per day.

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 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 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 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.

How to Apply
Water Use Licensing Process

To apply for a Water Rights Licence, an application including all required documentation must be completed.  Remittance of the application fee is also required at the time of application.  Submission of applications using the online Water Licensing Portal is strongly encouraged for faster service delivery times. 

A separate licence is required for each source 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. Please note there are no verbal approvals or authorizations for the construction of works or diversion of water. To apply please visit the Water Licensing Portal

How to create a user account
This video will walk you through how to create a new user account for the Water Licensing Portal. In order to log in to your portal account, you need a valid log in ID.  If you know you already have applications or licences with the Water Use Licensing Section, contact us at wateruse@gov.mb.ca

How to apply for a Groundwater Use Licence
This video will walk you through how to apply for a new groundwater use licence using the Water Licensing Portal.  

How to apply for a Surface Water Use Licence
This video will walk you through how to apply for a new surface water use licence using the Water Licensing Portal.

If you are unable to submit the application using the online Water Licensing Portal, please contact the Registrar at wateruse@gov.mb.ca for an alternate format.  In order to expedite the review of your application, please ensure you provide all required documents to support your application. 

After you submit an application for a Water Rights Licence, 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 when a water supply assessment is required.  Please see the Guide to Groundwater Withdrawals for more detailed information for groundwater projects.

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

Project Requirements

Please note that prior to construction of any works relative to your project you must contact the Registrar at wateruse@gov.mb.ca for requirements specific to your situation.

Groundwater Projects

Requirements for a groundwater source project may include the following:

  • retention of the services of a professional hydrogeologist registered with Engineers Geoscientists Manitoba (formerly APEGM) to conduct a well inventory of the area, oversee drilling and pump testing, and to submit those results in report form to the Water Use Licensing Section (please see the Guide to Groundwater Withdrawals for more detailed information);
  • sketch plan of location of proposed well(s);
  • instantaneous diversion rate;
  • amount of water required daily and annually;
  • determination of beneficial use (e.g. crop type and acres irrigated, number of animals, etc.);
  • proof of legal ownership/access to the land on which the supply well(s) may be located;
  • type of metering equipment (e.g. flow meter, timer, etc.); and
  • any other information that may be specific to the project.
Surface Water Projects

Requirements for a surface water source project may include the following:

  • retention of a professional engineer registered at Engineers Geoscientists Manitoba (formerly APEGM)  to prepare and stamp design and/or as built drawings of water storage works;
  • instantaneous diversion rate;
  • amount of water required daily and annually;
  • determination of beneficial use (e.g. crop type and acres irrigated, number of animals, etc.);
  • proof of legal ownership/access to all lands affected by the project, including any pipeline routes;
  • copy of municipal conditional use permit (if required);
  • type of metering equipment (e.g. flow meter, timer, etc.); and
  • any other information that may be specific to project.
Inquiries/Concerns and Enforcement Issues

How to I submit inquiries or concerns?
Inquiries or concerns can be submitted using the online Water Licensing Portal.  If you unable to submit an inquiry or concern using the online Water Licensing Portal, please contact the Registrar at wateruse@gov.mb.ca.

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

  • use or divert water unless he or she holds a valid and subsisting licence to do so; or
  • construct, establish, operate or maintain any works without authority.
The Role of Water Use Licensing Agents

Water use licensing agents are responsible for issuing licences and ensuring compliance of all works involving surface water and groundwater pursuant to The Water Rights Act.

Staff respond to inquiries and reports of unauthorized works, as well as inspect or investigate alleged offences.  Staff will also determine if works are contrary to the law and assess what impacts have occurred.

If an offence has been committed, charges may be laid against the offending individual(s) and/or landowner(s).  Depending on severity of the impacts and the history of the accused, he or she may be given an opportunity to pay a set fine OR be given a mandatory appearance date to attend Provincial Court where a judge will determine the penalty for the offence(s).

Anyone convicted of an offence is responsible to ensure remedial work is conducted to bring the work into compliance with The Water Rights Act.  Failing to do so may result in further charges and remedial work may be required by Manitoba through the issuance of an ‘Order’.  The offender will be responsible to complete the required work.  If they fail to comply by the deadline, Manitoba will complete the work on their behalf and the offender will be invoiced for the cost of the work and face possible additional charges.

Fines & Penalties
Penalties for a corporation are by way of fines not more than $500,000.00.  Penalties for an individual are by way of fines not more than to $50,000.00.  An individual or director/officer of a corporation may also be subject to imprisonment for up to three months.

Appeals
Appeals regarding charges laid must be handled through Provincial Court.  Appeals of any order or decision of the minister may be directed to the Manitoba Municipal Board within 30 days of the order or decision.

Water Licensing Portal Map Viewer

The Water Licensing Portal Map Viewer can be used to identify the location of Water Control Works and Water Use authorizations issued under the Water Rights Act. Using the Map Viewer does not require a Water Licensing Portal ID.

Water Licensing Portal Map Viewer

Water Use Records

All water rights licences 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 1st of the following year. Depending on the type of project, records must be kept on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

1.) Please choose the type of use:

municipal
industrial
irrigation
livestock
air cooling and heating
other

2.) Please choose the type of recording device you have:

meter  
timer  
inches applied

3.) Please choose how frequently your readings must be taken:

daily  
weekly  
monthly

if you wish to submit your records via email, please use the following email address: wateruse@gov.mb.ca

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 Water Rights Regulation 126/87. The water use fees are designed to increase awareness of water consumption and encourage conservation, where applicable.

Calculate Your Annual Water Use Charges Under The Water Rights Act

Distribution Rangedam3 units per rangedam3 units per range remainingCharges per range
0 to 1000.000.00$0.00
101 to 5000.000.00$0.00
501 to 10,0000.000.00$0.00
10,001 to 20,0000.000.00$0.00
>20,0010.000.00$0.00
0.00Total Charges$0.00

Note: 1 dam3 (or 1 cubic decameter) = 220,000 Imperial gallons or 1,000,000 litres

Fee Schedule for Industrial and Other Uses
Cubic Decametres Rate/dam3
0 to 500 $1.00
101 to 500 $1.25
501 to 10,000 $1.50
10,001 to 20,000 $1.75
20,001 to 100,000 $2.00
100,000 to Over* $-
FOR INFORMATION ONLY

* The rate per cubic decametre for volumes in excess of 100,000 cubic decametres shall be such as may be fixed from time to time by regulation under section 26 of the Act.

Frequently Asked Questions
General

Q. Who owns the water in Manitoba?
A. 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.

Q. What are works?
A. Works are defined in The Water Rights Act as ‘any excavation, well, structure, plant, operation or contrivance that diverts, or may divert, or is like to divert water. 

Q. Do I need a licence or authorization to use water?
A. 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.

Q. 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.

Q. What access does Water Use Licensing Section have to works?
A. 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.

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

Q. What rights do I have as a licensee?
A. 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.

Q. What happens to a licence when land is sold?
A. 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.

Q. How do I report water supply concerns?
A. Inquiries or concerns can be submitted using the online Water Licensing Portal.  If you unable to submit inquiries or concerns using the online Water Licensing Portal, please contact wateruse@gov.mb.ca for an alternate format.

Q. What are the conditions of a water rights licence?
A. 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 and instantaneous withdrawal rates;
  • 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 1st of the following year; and
  • other clauses that may be required by the particular circumstances of the project.

Q. What are my obligations to maintain my water rights license in good standing?
A. 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 Registrar 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 licences 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 at wateruse@gov.mb.ca, either upon request or by February 1st of the following year.

Q. Am I held responsible for the authorized works?
A. 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 licence is in good standing, abandoned, suspended or cancelled.

Q. How do I contact the Registrar?
A. You may contact the Registrar at wateruse@gov.mb.ca

Water Licensing Portal

Q. I`m having difficulties using the Water Licensing Portal.  Are there any resources available to assist proponents in using the Water Licensing Portal?
A. Instructional videos are available to assist you with using the Water Licensing Portal.  Videos in this series include:

Q. I forgot my user ID.  How do I access the Water Licensing Portal?
A. If you require assistance, contact the Registrar at wateruse@gov.mb.ca.

Q. I forgot my password.  Can I obtain a new one? 
A. Once you have entered the water licensing portal, you may click ‘Forgot your password?’ and a new password will be emailed to you immediately.

Q. How can I pay online using the Water Licensing Portal?
A. The Water Licensing Portal only accepts Visa or Mastercard.

Q. Can I apply online but pay in person?
A. No, the Water Licensing Portal requires payment at the time of application.

Q. Assuming I have previously received authorization under The Water Rights Act, how do I log into my account to see existing projects if I have never signed up for the Water Licensing Portal?
A. A log in ID has been created for past project proponents. Contact us at wateruse@gov.mb.ca and we will send you the log in ID for your account.

Q. Is there a map showing the location and status of current authorizations on the landscape?
A. Yes, please check the public Water Licensing Portal Map Viewer.

Q. Can I complete my application partially and then come back to finish it a later date?
A. No, you must complete the application including payment during one session. Partially complete applications will be lost.

Q. How will I know if my application was successfully submitted?
A. You will receive an acknowledgement email from the Registrar and a payment confirmation email from Moneris.

Q. I missed adding information to my application.  How do I add additional information to my file once I have submitted my application?
A. You can use the water licensing portal to submit correspondence or additional information once you have submitted your application. 

Application/Transfer Fees

Q. What is the application fee for a Water Rights Licence?
A. The non-refundable application fee for a Water Rights Licence is $100.00.  Payment is required at the time of application. 

Q. How much does it cost to transfer a Water Rights Licence?
A. The non-refundable transfer fee for a Water Rights Licence is $100.00.  Payment is required at the time of the request. 

Authorization Timelines

Q. How long before I receive a Water Rights Licence?
A. Applications are processed in the order they are submitted.  The length of time prior to receiving a licence will largely depend on the number of applications awaiting processing, the complexity of your project and whether or not all information is included with your submission.  You may check the status of your application on the Water Licensing Portal

Q. How do I find out if my application received authorization?
A. You will receive an email (if provided with the application) with your authorization.  If an email is not provided, you will receive your authorization through Canada Post. 

Q. I mailed in an application but how do I know my application was received?
A. When your application is processed you will receive a confirmation letter or email with your receipt of payment.

Q. How do I determine the status of my application?
A. You can check the status of your application on the Water Licensing Portal.

Paper Applications/Assistance

Q. I’m having difficulties completing my application.  How can I obtain further assistance?
A. If you require assistance, please contact the Registrar at wateruse@gov.mb.ca.

Q. Can I apply using an alternate format?
A. You may request an alternate format by contacting the Registrar at wateruse@gov.mb.ca.

Authorization Process

Q. Can I still apply for authorization if I am the lessee or the renter of property?
A. Yes.You must indicate if you are the legal land owner, renter or lessee as part of the application process. 

Q. Do I require authorization if using water for a short duration of time?
A. In such situations, you are advised to contact the Registrar at wateruse@gov.mb.ca to discuss the specifics of your project. 

Q. How do I determine if a project has already received authorization?
A. You can search for previously authorized projects by using the Water Licensing Portal map function. Alternatively, you may contact the Registrar at wateruse@gov.mb.ca.

Q. Does my Water Rights Licence expire?
A. The specific expiry date for a project appears on the Water Rights License for the project. Water Rights Licences are issued for terms of up to 20 years.

Q. Can a Water Rights Licence be suspended or cancelled?
A. 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.

Q. Does a Water Rights Licence guarantee that water will always be available/potable? 
A. 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.

Inquiries/Concerns

Q. How do I submit an inquiry or concern?
A. Inquiries or concerns can be submitted using the online Water Licensing Portal.  If you unable to submit an inquiry or concern using the online Water Licensing Portal, please contact the Registrar at wateruse@gov.mb.ca.

Penalties/Enforcement

Q. Can I be charged or face a penalty for undertaking works without authorization?
A. Yes. Subject to the provisions of The Water Rights Act, individuals, landowners or contractors responsible for the construction of the works can be charged.

Q. Can I be charged or face a penalty for using or diverting water without authorization?
A. Yes. Subject to the provisions of The Water Rights Act, individuals, landowners or contractors responsible for using or diverting water can be charged.

Appeals

Q. I received a letter that said my application was denied. Can I appeal this decision?
A. Yes. Subject to the provisions of The Water Rights Act, appeals of any order or decision of the minister may be directed to the Manitoba Municipal Board within 30 days of the order or decision.