A Small Waterway Which Flows Into A Main River Riparian Rights and Land Surveying

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Riparian Rights and Land Surveying

Riparian rights, also known as riparian rights or riparian water rights, are a system of allocating water when several landowners own land around a water source. With English common law origins, riparian rights exist in many countries, including Canada and Australia, as well as in many states in the United States, particularly in the eastern half of the country.

The general principle of riparian water rights holds that all landowners with property adjacent to a body of water (such as a lake or river) have the right to reasonable use of this water. This includes not only water rights up to the boundary of the submerged property line, but also additional water rights beyond the property line. If the amount of water is not sufficient to satisfy all landowners, the water is usually allocated in proportion to the amount of land directly adjacent to the water source or shoreline. In general, ownership of land adjacent to a waterway is assumed to be land up to the center point of the waterway, unless land contracts state otherwise. However, this may not be true if the waterway is navigable by boat. In this case, the mean low water mark is the line used to determine land ownership. In many states, the land under this symbol is owned by the state government.

Riparian rights may include activities such as swimming, boating and fishing, the right to build wharfs to navigable points, the right to erect docks and jetties, and the right to use water for domestic purposes. These water rights cannot be sold or transferred unless the adjacent land is also transferred. Water cannot be carried out of the immediate area.

Although those living along waterways have the right to protect property from both flooding and erosion, these activities are often subject to approval by various environmental agencies. Owners of property adjacent to a waterway also have a duty to allow that water to flow freely from one property to another, without affecting the rights of other landowners by pollution or diversion. Landowners also have a responsibility to maintain the stream bed and shoreline, and to keep the area clear of debris or obstructions.

Because of the short frontage, some lots receive very little of the water allotment, perhaps not enough to use the water without conflict with neighboring property owners. The configuration of the shoreline can affect riparian rights. In some cases, entire waterways are allocated, while in others, only nearshore waters are allocated. The method used depends on the size of the pond or the width of the waterway, among other factors.

An owner’s riparian rights, including land rights along a river or lake, depend on accurate knowledge of the property. Because water flow can affect shorelines over time, a land survey is often necessary to determine the exact boundaries of a property. In public land survey system areas, a meander corner monument or MC was set at each point where the section line intersected a river or lake. However, a survey of a coastline or coastal area may show that there is more or less open land than previously seen on a map or survey. Natural events such as storms, especially hurricanes, can drastically change these boundaries, affecting applicable river rights and often requiring new surveys.

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