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Water Rights: Emergency Regulation

With the enactment of Indiana Code 14-25-4 (Water Rights: Emergency Regulation Statute) by the 1985 Indiana General Assembly, owners of small capacity water wells are protected against the impacts of high capacity ground-water pumpage if it substantially lowers water levels, resulting in the failure of a small capacity well. A high capacity well (significant ground water withdrawal facility) is defined in the statute as "the ground water withdrawal facility of a person that, in the aggregate from all sources and by all methods, has the capability of withdrawing at least one hundred thousand (100,000) gallons of ground water in one (1) day". A small capacity well (nonsignificant ground water withdrawal facility) has less than 100,000 gallon-per-day pumping capability.

If a small capacity well no longer furnishes its normal supply of water, and the well owner suspects that it may be affected by nearby high capacity pumpage, the owner can submit a written complaint to the director of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The DNR will conduct an on-site investigation of the problem. If the investigation discloses that:

  1. the small capacity well has failed to provide its normal supply of water due a substantial lowering of the ground water level in the area, and;
  2. that the lowering of the ground water level was caused by one or more significant ground water withdrawal facilities, and;
  3. that the well and its equipment were functioning properly at the time of the failure, and;
  4. that, if installed after December 31, 1985, the small capacity well was constructed in accordance with Nonrule Policy Document Information Bulletin #26 (1986 thru 1990) or Rule 312 IAC 12 (Acrobat pdf file) (1991 to present);

the DNR director shall, by temporary order, declare a ground water emergency and require timely and reasonable compensation be provided to the owner of the small capacity well. "Timely and reasonable compensation" consists of, and is limited to the following:

  1. The immediate temporary provision at the prior point of use of an adequate supply of potable water.
  2. Reimbursement of expenses reasonably incurred by the complainant to do the following:
    1. obtain an immediate temporary provision at the prior point of use of an adequate supply of potable water;
    2. the restoration of the affected small capacity well to its former relative capability;
    3. the permanent provision at the point of use of an alternate potable supply of equal quantity; or
    4. the permanent restriction or scheduling of the high capacity pumpage so that the affected water well continues to provide its normal supply of water, or its normal supply of potable water if the well normally furnishes potable water.

Indiana Code 14-25-4 protects all properly functioning small capacity wells installed before January 1, 1986. Wells installed after this date must be constructed in accordance with the standards set forth in Information Bulletin #26 or Rule 312 IAC 12. These standards establish minimum requirements for the depth of the pump setting and the amount of the source aquifer that must be penetrated by the new well. These supplemental construction standards are in addition to the minimum well construction requirements found in Rule 312 IAC 13 (Acrobat pdf file). The Water Rights: Emergency Regulation Statute does not require that new small capacity water wells be installed in accordance with the supplemental construction rules. However, if future high capacity pumpage causes the failure of a small capacity well that was installed after January 1, 1986, and that well does not meet the rule requirements, the owner will have no protection under the law.

A summary of Indiana's ground-water rights program is available in the brochure "Water Rights: Emergency Regulation "available on the Division of Water's web page.

The Water Rights and Use Section of the Division of Water will answer any questions concerning Indiana Code 14-25-4 or Rule 312 IAC 12. Contact the Section at (317) 232-4160 or toll free at 1-877-928-3755.


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