Riparian Ownership Laws

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What Is Riparian Ownership?

Riparian laws determine who may possess or use water as it flows or touches various properties. In the United States, riparian laws are generally followed in the eastern states. The states on the West Coast follow a doctrine known as "prior appropriation."

Under the riparian doctrine, the water from watercourses belongs to those who own the land bordering the water. Riparian rights attach to all contiguous tracts as long as one of them borders the water in question. Riparian owners are only allowed to use this water in connection with the riparian parcel.

What Are "Natural Flow" and "Reasonable Use?"

There are two theories that guide the riparian ownership doctrine. The following are the basic guidelines that make up these competing theories of water use: 

What's the Difference between "Natural Use" and "Artificial Use?"

When assessing the fairness of water allocation, courts also look closely to the nature of the water use. There are two basic uses of water, Natural Use and Artificial Use: 

Should I Contact a Property Attorney?

Water law is very complex and often controversial. If you are in a riparian state and are involved in a dispute over the use of a watercourse, the advice of a real property attorney can be extremely helpful in resolving your legal matter. A real property lawyer can explain how the laws of your state affect your rights and can represent you in court.

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Last Modified: 05-09-2014 12:41 PM PDT

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