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Water rights and permits
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources provides technical assistance related to water rights issues in Ohio. The current law of groundwater withdrawal in Ohio was established by the Ohio Supreme Court in 1984. Simply put, water users can use and benefit from Ohio's plentiful water supply as long as other neighboring water users are not adversely affected (this is called reasonable use of groundwater).

Nine factors must be taken into consideration when determining the reasonableness of a water use. These factors, which also apply to stream water rights, include:

  • Purpose of the use (must be beneficial).
  • Suitability of the use to the water resource.
  • Economic value of the use.
  • Social value of the use.
  • Extent and amount of harm the use causes.
  • Comparison of the efficiency/wastefulness of competing uses.
  • Curtailing wasteful use when competition is present.
  • Protecting existing values of water uses.
  • The justice of requiring the user causing harm to bear the loss.

It is also important to note that:

  • All competing water uses may be considered reasonable if the water resource is sufficient to adequately supply all of the users.
  • What may once have been a reasonable use may not be reasonable during a drought when supply is reduced.


Many homeowners wonder if they need a permit to drill a private well. The Ohio Department of Health regulates private drinking water systems such as wells, springs and ponds. Your local county health district will test the quality of the water supplied and issue an operational permit.