3 Secrets of Irrigation Water Taking Permits Revealed

By: Rebecca Shortt, Water Quantity Engineer, OMAFRA

#1. So the first one is not really a secret:  If you irrigate, from any water source in Ontario, you need a Permit To Take Water (PTTW) from the Ministry of Environment Conservation and Parks (MECP).

What if it’s a pond on the farm property, not connected to anything?  YES, you still need a PTTW

What if it’s just a sand point well? YES, you still need a PTTW

What if we take water from a municipal drain or roadside ditch? YES, you still need a PTTW

All water sources require a PTTW: ponds, lakes, Great Lakes, streams, creeks, ditches, wetlands, springs and wells.  Whether your water source is large or small, you need a PTTW.

The only exception is for irrigation takings of less than 50,000L per day.  That’s approximately ½ acre with 1 inch of water.  So if you have a very small irrigated area, stay below the 50,000L limit every day, keep good water volume records and don’t impact your neighbours or the natural environment, then you don’t need a PTTW.

#2. A PTTW is the best way to protect your interests in using that water supply.

To get a PTTW you need to prove that your water taking will not impact neighbours or the natural environment.  For most water sources, you will need to hire a professional water consultant to do a study of your water taking and it’s impacts.

Irrigating without a PTTW can result in fines, charges and having your equipment (pumps) confiscated in the middle of the growing season.

Having a PTTW means your water taking is legal and recognized by the MECP as a legitimate water user.

Most PTTW expire in 5 or 10 years.  Make sure you renew you PTTWs before they expire!  Renewing a PTTW is much easier and less costly than applying for a new PTTW.

#3. A PTTW for agricultural irrigation does not have an application fee.  However, there are generally costs to hire a consultant to study your water taking and write a report showing that your water taking doesn’t impact neighbours or the natural environment.

Start your PTTW application process well in advance of the growing season.  Apply now (2022) for the PTTWs for the water sources you’ll be using in 2023.  Getting a PTTW is a time-consuming process, typically many months.  A consultant’s study will typically take a few months and the application approval process also takes a few months.


The Ministry of Environment staff at this number 1-800-461-6290 are knowledgeable and helpful (or enviropermissions@ontario.ca).  This is the new Client Services and Permissions Branch and I’m pleased to report that I’ve had great service.

MECP PTTW information can be found here https://www.ontario.ca/page/permits-take-water

A list of potential consultants can be found here http://omafra.gov.on.ca/english/engineer/consultants.htm

MECP staff people offer a pre-application consultation which is highly recommended.

About Sean Westerveld

Ginseng and Medicinal Herbs Specialist, OMAFRA
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