Water Rights

Using Water in South Dakota

Who needs a water right permit? In South Dakota, all water (surface and ground water) is the property of the people of the state and whether you need a water right permit depends on the type of your water use. The only type of water use which does not require a water right permit is domestic use. However, even domestic use of water requires a permit if your water use exceeds either 25,920 gallons per day or a peak pump rate of 25 gallons per minute. Examples of domestic water uses are: 1) drinking, washing, sanitary, and culinary uses by an individual or household, 2) irrigation of a noncommercial garden, trees, etc. not exceeding one acre in size, 3) stock watering, and 4) 18 gallons per minute for use in schools, parks, and public recreation areas. It should also be noted that water distribution systems using 18 gallons per minute or less do not need to get a water right permit. Water distribution systems include municipalities, rural water systems, suburban housing developments, etc. For a complete listing of what are domestic water uses and the definition of a water distribution system, please refer to South Dakota Codified Law 46-1-6. If your water use involves the construction of a dam or dugout, please refer to Building a Dam for information about permitting and other requirements. If your water use involves ground water, then please refer to Drilling a Well for more information.

The following types of water use require a water right permit assuming the use is from a private water supply rather than a water distribution system. If supplied by a water distribution system using more than 18 gallons per minute, the water distribution system needs to obtain a water right permit on behalf of the system water users:

  1. Commercial uses such as tourist attractions, truckstops, restaurants, campgrounds, motels, or any other type of business (see General Rule 74:02:01:01)
  2. Industrial uses where water is used for processing, cooling, dewatering, etc.
  3. Institutional uses such as churches, correctional facilities, etc.
  4. Irrigation use
  5. Municipal use (in excess of 18 gallons per minute)
  6. Rural water system use (in excess of 18 gallons per minute)
  7. Suburban housing development use (in excess of 18 gallons per minute)
  8. Recreation use
  9. Fish and wildlife propagation

How long does it take to get a water right permit? Following receipt of your completed application, a report and recommendation are prepared along with a notice to be published in your local newspaper. If your application is not contested in response to the public notice and the chief engineer is recommending approval of your application, then processing your application takes approximately two months. The length of time is also dependent on the number of other applications being reviewed by the Water Rights Program. If your application is contested, then the application needs to be considered by the state Water Management Board. As a result of being contested, the time needed to obtain your permit and may take considerably longer since the board's decisions may be appealed to the Circuit Court and State Supreme Court.

What happens if your permit application is approved? Following approval of your application you are issued a water right permit specifying the conditions under which you may place water to beneficial use. In addition, the time frame for completing your project (five years to construct and four additional years to place water to beneficial use) and a priority date are assigned to the permit. This priority date is important because during periods of limited water availability the oldest water right permit has first call on any available water. However, domestic water uses typically take preference over all water uses for which a permit is needed. Also, you will be provided a "Notice of Completion of Works" form so that you may notify the Water Rights Program when your project is completed. This Notice informs us that your project is ready for an inspection to license your water use which is the final step in getting a water right. After obtaining a water right, the water right remains in effect as long as water continues to be placed to beneficial use.

For more information on water rights permitting, Please contact us by e-mail or call Eric Gronlund at (605) 773-3352 if you have any questions.

Other types of permits? There may be several other types of permits and approvals related to your water use project. The SD Environmental Permitting Guide is a very good reference to see what types of permitting may be applicable to your situation.