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Do I Need a Permit to Irrigate My Farm? Understanding The Water Appropriation and Use Permit

Updated: Jul 17, 2020

By Ashley Ellixson

Tractor clearing field (Photo by Edwin Remsberg).

Agricultural water use in Maryland has been expanding over the past few years with most of this growth occurring on the Eastern Shore. Maryland’s Eastern Shore is the most concentrated grain and poultry region in the state. Due to this concentration, the water and appropriation permit (allowing for irrigation) is critical to understand in order to ensure crops’ and animals’ sustainability in the agriculture market.

Who Needs a Permit?

If you plan to withdraw an annual daily average of 10,000 gallons of water per day from either surface or underground waters for agricultural activities, you will be required to obtain approval for a permit. You are exempted from the permit process if you use is for an agricultural purpose and under an annual daily average of 10,000 gallons of water per day.

How Do I Apply for a Permit?

First, it is imperative you obtain county specific planning and zoning approval as well as water and sewer plan approval. Next, you will need to submit the permit application, a project map, and explanation of the use. Also, along with the help of the Department of the Environment, you will be required to reveal your proposed average daily use of water. If you plan to withdraw from groundwater, that measurement will be the highest daily use during the month of highest use. If you withdraw from surface water, the measurement will be the maximum daily use.

In addition to the measurement of withdrawal and permit application, the Department may require aquifer testing, other technical analysis and are provided after you complete the application. Agricultural users are provided technical assistance by the Department during the permitting process. You must also notify your neighboring property owners of your proposed use. Requests of use over 10,000 gallons per day may require a public hearing but are not mandatory.

Other permits that you may need approval for, depending on your specific situation, are (1) a well construction permit, (2) a wetlands permit, and/or (3) a waterway construction permit.

Chickens laying eggs in cages (Photo by Edwin Remsberg).

When Will I Know If I Am Approved?

If you are requesting to withdraw under 10,000 gallons per day, you should receive a response to your application in 90 days. If your request is for 10,000 gallons per day or more, you should receive a response in 18 months. It is important that you begin the permitting process for the approved withdrawal within two years of approval.


There are no fees associated with the permit.

How Long Will My Permit Last?

Your permit will last a maximum of 12 years however, it is up for review every 3 years and is not transferable to new ownership without approval from the Department.

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