Regulatory Program: Drainage & Water Management

Water Resource Districts (WRD) and the Office of the State Engineer (OSE) are responsible for regulating drainage in North Dakota as authorized under North Dakota Century Code title 61.

Surface Drainage (NDCC § 61-32-03 and NDAC ch. 89-02-01)

Surface drainage requires a permit before draining a pond, slough, lake or sheetwater, or any series thereof, that has a watershed area (i.e., drainage area) of 80 acres or more. For more details on what activities constitute “surface drainage,” please refer to the OSE’s Drainage Permitting Definitions policy.

  • An “Application for Surface Drain” must first be submitted to the OSE.
  • The OSE will then determine whether or not the application is “drainage of statewide or interdistrict significance” according to NDAC § 89-02-01-09 and the OSE’s Statewide or Interdistrict Significance Determinations policy.
  • The WRD of jurisdiction will approve or deny the application. Except for application of drainage of statewide or interdistrict significance, the WRD’s decision is final.
  • If approved by the WRD of jurisdiction, applications of drainage of statewide or interdistrict significance are forwarded to the OSE for final review and approval.
Emergency Surface Drainage (NDCC § 61-32-03 and NDAC ch. 89-02-05.1)

Emergency surface drainage requires a permit. If issued, emergency drainage permits are temporary, 6-month permits.

  • An “Application for Surface Drain” must first be submitted to the OSE.
  • Refer to instructions on Page 4 of the “Application for Surface Drain” for more details.
  • The OSE is responsible for review and issuance of emergency drainage permits, in consultation with WRDs.
Subsurface Water Management Systems (NDCC § 61-32-03.1)

Permit Requirement (For Systems 80 Acres or More)

Subsurface water management requires a permit prior to the installation of a subsurface water management system comprising 80 acres of land area or more.

  • An “Application to Install a Subsurface Water Management System” must be submitted to the WRD of jurisdiction.
  • WRDs are responsible for review and issuance of Subsurface Water Management Permits.

Notification Requirement (For Systems Less Than 80 Acres)

Subsurface water management systems less than 80 acres require notification to your WRD of jurisdiction.

  • A “Notification to Install a Subsurface Water Management System” must be submitted to the WRD of jurisdiction prior to installation.
  • Refer to Page 2 of the Notification form for more details.

Program Rules & Guidance

Administrative Code - Links to the North Dakota Administrative Code "Article 89-02 - Drainage Of Water"

Century Code - Links to the North Dakota Century Code "Drainage"

REG-2020-2 – Drainage Permitting Definitions Policy

REG-2020-3 – Statewide or Interdistrict Significance Determinations Policy


Drainage Permit Applications

Applications for subsurface or surface drains are available for download at the following links.

Application For Surface Drain (SFN 2830)

Application To Install A Subsurface Water Management System (SFN 61244)

Notification To Install Subsurface Water Management System (SFN 61990)

Subsurface Water Management Permit (SFN 61243) Is Available Only To WRDs Upon Request.


Drainage Complaints

Drainage Complaints

A complaint of unauthorized construction of a drain may be filed with the WRD of jurisdiction. The WRD will determine if a landowner or tenant constructed a drain without first securing a permit as required under NDCC 61-32-03 or 61-32-03.1, or in conflict with the terms or conditions of a drainage permit.

A WRD decision on a drainage complaint may be appealed to the OSE within 30 days of receipt of the WRD’s decision on the complaint.

If the WRD does not act on the complaint within a reasonable time (120 days), the original complaint may be filed with the OSE within 150 days of the original submittal date.

Obstruction To Drain/Watercourse Complaints

A complaint of obstruction to a drain or watercourse may be filed with the WRD of jurisdiction. The WRD will determine if a landowner or tenant has intentionally or negligently caused an obstruction to a natural watercourse or drain. A WRD decision on an obstruction to a drain complaint may be appealed to the district court of the county in which the land is located.

Complaint For Water-Related Issues (SFN 60840)

Appeal Of A Water Resource District Drainage Complaint Decision (SFN 61409)


Drainage Permits Database

Provides access to available information for drainage permits that have been issued in North Dakota.


Information

Water Resource Districts

Regulatory Engineer Project Area Map

For more information please contact the Regulatory Division at (701) 328-2752 or e-mail.