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Water permit and notifications

Projects that change water systems, the aquatic environment or groundwater conditions often require a permit under the Water Act. In certain situations, submitting a notification to the authority is enough. The need for a permit may also have to be assessed in a statement by the supervisory authority.

The Water Act aims to promote the sustainable use of water resources and the aquatic environment

The Water Act and the Government Decree on Water Resources Management govern the implementation of water management projects and other use and management of water resources and the aquatic environment.

The Water Act aims to promote, organise and coordinate the use of water resources and the aquatic environment so that it is socially, economically and ecologically sustainable. Another aim is also to prevent and reduce adverse effects and to improve the state of water resources and the aquatic environment.

The Water Act contains provisions on required project permits, the application procedure and the prerequisites for granting a permit. The Decree contains more detailed provisions on details such as the content of the permit application and the processing of application matters.

See the Water Act (587/2011, in Finnish) (Finlex)

Government Decree on Water Resources Management (1560/2011, in Finnish) (Finlex)

When do you need a water permit?

The need for a permit under the Water Act is determined on the basis of the impacts of the project, and it is required for certain projects listed in the Water Act regardless of the impacts. The need for an impact-based permit depends on whether the project causes a change in the water body, shore, aquatic environment or groundwater that has a harmful impact that violates public or private interest.

You will need a water permit for water management projects such as:

  • arge or shared piers
  • marinas
  • lanes and other water traffic areas
  • construction of a water pipeline, sewer or cable under a public waterway 
  • construction of a bridge across a public waterway 
  • construction of a hydropower plant 
  • construction of dams and regulation of water bodies
  • changing the mean water level
  • water body restoration or fishery-related restoration
  • dredging and filling of a water area when the amount of dredged spoil exceeds 500 m3
  • water abstraction when the amount of water exceeds 250 m3/day.

Changes to existing structures may also require a permit.

If you are unsure of the need for a permit, request a statement from the local Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY Centre).

You may not start a water management project before it has been granted a permit or before the permit has become legally valid. In connection with the permit application, you can apply for an authorisation for preparation for the right to take measures to prepare the implementation of the project even before the permit decision becomes legally valid.

When a water permit is granted

A water permit can be granted if:

  • the project is principally harmless (requirement of non-harm) or
  • the benefits of the project are significant compared to the losses incurred (requirement of interest comparison).

There is an absolute obstacle to granting a permit if the project:

  • endangers public health or safety
  • significantly harms the environment or the aquatic environment and their functions
  • causes major deterioration in the local living conditions or economic conditions.

In addition, the permit holder must have a right of use to the areas required for the project (requirement of the right of use). If the permit holder does not have this right, a condition for granting the permit is that the applicant provides a reliable account of the acquisition of the right.

How to apply for a water permit

The Regional State Administrative Agency processes permit applications for matters under the Water Act. You can find instructions and more detailed information on the Regional State Administrative Agency’s website. You can apply for a water permit electronically in the environmental permit service.


Businesses and non-governmental organisations

Government agencies

Environmental permit service

The local government e-service includes the environmental permit service where you can fill in and send an electronic application for a water permit to the Regional State Administrative Agency.

Local government e-service
Go to the local government e-service

Coordination of permits

If you are applying for an environmental, water management or soil permit and there are other environmental permits that are also linked to your project, you can ask the authority handling the permit process to coordinate the permit procedures.

Read more about the coordination of environmental permit procedures

See also

Information service for water and environmental permits

In the information service for water and environmental permits, you can find the water and environmental permit matters that have been initiated, notified and concluded by the Regional State Administrative Agency and the related public documents.

Information service for water and environmental permits
Go to the permit information service of the Regional State Administrative Agenc…


Regional state administrative agencies
ELY centres