Drainage District Program
Approximately one-third of Wisconsin farms depend upon constructed drains to remove excess water from their land. Most drains are operated by a single landowner or by voluntary cooperation among neighbors. However, approximately 10 percent of the drains are organized under Chapter 88, Wisconsin Statutes, as drainage districts that are governed by county drainage boards.
The Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection regulates the drainage district program. The department has regulated the program since 1989. There are 176 active drainage districts in the state. These drainage districts are located in 31 counties, mainly in the eastern and southeastern portions of the state.
If you would like to know more about drainage districts, the department has developed an information sheet that summarizes what drainage districts are and how they operate. DATCP’s interactive web map allows you to locate a drainage district or get more detailed information about a district.
You can also contact the State Drainage Engineer:
Bureau of Land and Water Resources
2811 Agriculture Dr
Madison, WI 53708
(608) 224 – 4627
You may also contact your local drainage board. A list of drainage board members by county is available for downloading.
Drainage Board Handbook
The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection provides county drainage board members and other interested persons with a County Drainage Board Handbook. The handbook is designed to help county drainage boards carry out their responsibilities for administering drainage districts in their county. This handbook explains the provisions of the statute (chapter 88, Wis. Stats.) and the administrative rule (chapter ATCP 48, Wisconsin Administrative Code) under which county drainage boards and drainage districts must operate. There are also some references to other codes and statutes that drainage boards need to perform their duties.
The first version of the handbook was produced in July 1997. Chapter ATCP 48, Wis. Admin. Code, first became effective in June 1995 and was revised on September 1, 1999. The most recent revision to chapter ATCP 48, Wis. Admin. Code, became effective in February 2001. The version of the handbook on the website is the 2007 edition with minor revisions to the appendices.
According to s. 88.21(5) Wis. Stats., “Any engineer employed by the board must be selected from a list of professional engineers approved by the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.” DATCP compiles its approved list by soliciting applications from consulting engineers and conducting a limited screening of applicants. DATCP makes sure that applicants provide information about their engineering experience related to water resources and agricultural practices, and also independently verifies that applicants are licensed professional engineers in the state of Wisconsin. Inclusion on the approved list is not endorsement by DATCP that the applicants are qualified to perform specific engineering work. Before retaining a listed engineer, Drainage Boards are advised to interview potential consultants thoroughly and to make their own determination regarding the consultant's expertise.
This list is updated on an as-needed basis. If you are a professional engineer with the appropriate background and would like to be included on this list, please complete the required application and submit it to the State Drainage Engineer.
Per s.88.24 Wis. Stats., a separate annual report on each drainage district must be filed with the county zoning administrator and the department by December 1 of each year for the preceding year ending August 31.
The annual report must be verified under oath by at least one county drainage board member and must include the following information:
- A financial statement for the drainage district.
- A statement of all bonds paid or issued during the preceding year.
- A statement of all work done during the preceding year, specifying where the work was done and its cost.
- A copy of the annual district inspection report (s. ATCP 48.14(3), Wis. Admin. Code).
- A copy of each storm inspection report (s. ATCP 48.16(2), Wis. Admin. Code).
The department has a form that may be used in submitting the annual reports for drainage districts, however, use of this form is not required.