Permits under the Water Act  

The Water Act guides the use and construction of water bodies. We process permit applications for projects subject to the Water Act. 

You may not start a water management project before it has been granted a permit or before the permit has become legally valid.  

Giving public notice of applications and decisions

When we process a water permit application at the Regional State Administrative Agency, we will inform other authorities and interested parties about the application, i.e. we will publish a public notice. We will send the notice to parties who have a particular interest in the matter, i.e. owners of land and waters in the area of impact and their neighbours. In other words, if you have received a notice of public consultation, your benefit or right is considered to be affected by the activity or project.  

A party may respond to the notice by filing an objection. The public notice mentions where the application documents are available and how you can file an objection. The public notice also includes the details of the person who is handling the matter. You can contact them to ask for advice. If you don‘t have any comments to make, you don’t have to do anything.

There are two ways to comment on a pending application. The parties may file an objection to a pending application. The parties are those persons whose interests or rights may be affected. Persons other than the parties concerned have the right to express their opinion on the application.   

You can read the documents related to the application in the Regional State Administrative Agency’s Permit information service, where they will be displayed for at least 30 days after the publication of the notice. Find out the register number of the application matter and the name of the applicant. You will need these for filing an objection or opinion.   

Send objections and opinions to the authority processing the permit using an electronic form. The form has more detailed instructions on how to write your objection or opinion. You don’t need to identify yourself to use the service, and it is free of charge.   

You will find links to the Permit information service and the electronic form at the end of this page. 

In the Permit information service, you can access in electronic format:   

  • matters pending at the Regional State Administrative Agencies   
  • public notices of applications that are at the consultation stage, and public application documents   
  • environmental and water permit decisions issued by the Regional State Administrative Agencies.   

The Permit information service does not have information on:  

  • pending compensation matters and the compensation decisions that have been issued   
  • administrative enforcement matter under the Water Act   
  • appeals.    

For information on these matters, contact the registries of Regional State Administrative Agencies. Links to the contact information of our registries and the Permit information service are provided at the bottom of this page. 

Information on permits

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

  • construction of a bridge across a public waterway  
  • construction of a water pipeline, sewer or cable under a public waterway  
  • utilisation of hydroelectric power  
  • lanes and other water traffic areas  
  • log driving site  
  • certain matters concerning drainage  
  • construction of dams and regulation of water bodies  
  • water abstraction  
  •  dredging and filling of a water area.  

If you are not sure whether you need a permit, ask the Regional Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment for an opinion.   

Water pollution issues are handled in accordance with the Environmental Protection Act.  

Once you have been issued a water permit decision, it will, as a rule, be valid until further notice (i.e. permanently) unless the permit has been issued for a fixed period. 

A fixed-term permit will lapse on the day it expires, unless otherwise provided in the permit decision.  

A permit valid until further notice lapses if the measures required in the permit decision have not been implemented in essential respects or if the measures have not been started within the specified time limit. For special reasons, you can apply for an extension before the time limit ends. 

A water permit may be granted if:  

  • the project does not significantly violate public or private interests  
  • the benefit gained from the project to public or private interests is considerable in comparison to the losses incurred for public or private interests.  

A permit cannot be granted, if the project:  

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

What is a private benefit? 

You can gain private benefits from a water management project, for example by increasing the useful value of your property as the productivity or usability of the land or water area improves.  

What is a private loss? 

As a non-participating party, a water management project may cause you a private loss, for example if the party implementing the project has been granted rights of use or purchase in the water area you own. 

What does the right of use to the areas required for the project mean? 

The permit holder must have a right of use to the areas required for the project. If the applicant does not own the area or control it through a permanent right of use, a permit may be granted if:  

  • the applicant is granted the right of use to the area  
  • the applicant presents a reliable account of how the right of use to the area will be arranged. 

The Regional State Administrative Agency charges a fee from the applicant for processing the application. The amount of the fee is determined by government decree. The fee does not depend on whether we issue a permit or reject the application. 

Processing of applications

If we ask you to supplement your application, you must send the required information by the deadline. If you have not sent the information by the deadline, we may reject your application as inadmissible. 

When your application has all the information we need, we will inform other authorities and the parties concerned; in other words, we will publish a public notice. The public notice and the documents are displayed in the permit information service for at least 30 days. Information on the public notice will also be published in those municipalities whose areas are covered by your application. 

The parties will receive a letter of public notice. We also announce significant applications in newspapers that are published in the area affected by the activities.   

During the public notice, we ask the necessary authorities and other parties for their opinions on the application matter. Others can also give their own opinions.  

After the public notice has expired, the Regional State Administrative Agency will send you the opinions and objections concerning your application. As the applicant, you may respond to them within a certain time limit. 

We will first see whether a permit can be granted, and then issue a decision to grant or to reject it. A permit is granted either until further notice or for a fixed period. For permits that are valid until further notice, the Regional State Administrative Agency sets the time limit by which you must start and complete the project.  

We will send the decision to the applicant, to the authorities that received a request for an opinion and to those who have separately requested the decision. The parties will receive a notice of the decision by post.  

If a permit is granted for your project, you must comply with the permit provisions specified in the decision.  

The decision may be appealed to the Vaasa Administrative Court within the appeal period. The decision becomes final only after the appeal period has expired and the decision has not been appealed.  

A decision may be appealed to the Vaasa Administrative Court during the appeal period. The permit decision will have instructions for filing an appeal and provide information on the limited appeal period.  

How do I apply for permits?

Send your application for a permit to carry out or to change a water management project to the Regional State Administrative Agency for the region where the project is located. There are six Regional State Administrative Agencies across Finland, but not all of them deal with water permits. 

Permit applications under the Water Act are processed by the Regional State Administrative Agencies for Southern Finland, Eastern Finland, Western and Inland Finland and Northern Finland. If your project is in the region of Southwestern Finland, your application will be processed by the Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland. If your project is in Lapland, your application will be processed by the Regional State Administrative Agency for Northern Finland.  

The Regional State Administrative Agencies and the Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment will provide advice on which authority you must send your application to.   

The average target processing time of a water permit application at the Regional State Administrative Agency is 9 months. Please note that the processing time may be prolonged by up to several months if:  

  • your application is incomplete  

  • you change your application when it is being processed.

Check or find out whether the project you are planning needs a permit under the Water Act. Permit needs are assessed by the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment.  

Send your application to the Regional State Administrative Agency well in advance of the planned start date of the project.  

Fill in and send your application electronically using the regional administration’s e-services. The e-service will provide advice on the information you will need to include in the application. The e-service will also allow you to track the processing of your application. If you cannot use the e-service, you can send your application by email. You can also submit the application and the supporting documents in paper copies in person. 

In addition to the e-services, the requirements for the information presented in the application are also given in chapter 1 of the Government Decree on Water Management (in Finnish). According to the law, the person preparing the water permit application must have sufficient expertise. If necessary, use a consultant to draw up your application.   

Other matters to take into account

As a rule, you can start a water management project when the decision granting the permit has become final. The permit decision becomes final 38 days after it was issued, provided that it has not been appealed to the Vaasa Administrative Court.  

However, when applying for a permit, you can apply for an authorisation for preparation for a justified reason. This means permission to carry out preparatory measures for the implementation of the project even before the permit decision has become final. The applicant must justify the need for the authorisation for preparation and specify the steps they intend to take. We will process the request for the authorisation for preparation at the same time as the permit application for a water management project and issue a decision granting or rejecting it.  

If we grant the authorisation for preparation, we will order the applicant to pay a security before starting work, unless this is clearly unnecessary. The requirement to pay a security does not apply to the state, central government agencies, municipalities or joint municipal authorities. The security must cover compensation for any damage, nuisance and costs that may result from repealing the decision or amending the conditions of the permit.  

As the applicant, you can also apply for the authorisation for preparation within the appeal period or within 14 days from the end of the appeal period. Use a separate application to do so. Before making the decision, we will consult the supervisory authorities and those who have appealed against the permit decision.  

As a rule, the permit decision is final. However, the permit may be changed in certain cases.   

On certain grounds, in addition to the permit holder, an application for changing a permit or the permit provisions may also be made by some other party, such as an injured party or an authority. In such cases, the change may be due to security reasons or unpredictable damage caused by the project. 

Compared to other permit processes, changing a permit is often a simpler process. However, good governance requires adequate consultation of all interested parties.  

Compliance with the Water Act, and with the permits and the permit provisions issued pursuant to it, is enforced by the Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment and the municipal environmental protection authorities. 

In addition to permit applications for water management projects under the Water Act, the Regional State Administrative Agencies handle certain administrative enforcement matters under the Water Act.  

Administrative enforcement under the Water Act means that on application a permit authority issues orders to a person who violates the law or a decree or regulation issued pursuant to it. An administrative enforcement decision may, for example, prohibit the continuation of unlawful activities on pain of a fine or order to rectify what has been done unlawfully.  

An application for administrative enforcement may be submitted by a supervisory authority, party concerned, municipality or certain associations. 

Before we make an administrative enforcement decision, we hear the person concerned and, where appropriate, other interested parties and authorities on the basis of the application.

Frequently asked questions

Naturally reclaimed land is a former water area that has permanently changed into land as a result of a decline in water levels, silting, weed infestation or postglacial rebound. In this way, an area of naturally reclaimed land is formed on the front of a property, which usually belongs not to the property but to the owner of the adjacent water area.  

Often the water area belongs to the joint property management association formed by the village residents fo manage the shared waters. If the naturally reclaimed land is detrimental to the appropriate use of the shore area or if it is a small area, the owner of the property adjoining it may, in most cases, purchase it for himself by applying to the National Land Survey of Finland for land division proceedings, i.e. the purchase of naturally reclaimed land. The purchase conditions, the area to be purchased and the compensation to be paid to the owner of the naturally reclaimed land are decided in the proceedings. 

Apply to the National Land Survey of Finland for land division proceedings, i.e. purchase of naturally reclaimed land (in Finnish)

 If you are not sure whether you need a permit or to which authority you should send your application, please contact your local Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment or the municipal environmental protection authority. These supervisory authorities provide relevant advice and, where appropriate, an opinion on the need for a permit. The Regional State Administrative Agency cannot comment on whether or not your project needs a permit.

A property may have a share in common areas. In other words, the property has a share in common areas created for the needs of two or more properties. The size of the shares in the common area may vary. Common areas include, for example, shared waters or common land areas, such as landing places for boats or gravel extraction sites. The property’s shares in common areas can be found in the land registry extract. 

Links to legal texts