Under riparianism, the right to use water is tied to the ownership of riparian land, property that abuts a natural watercourse. Riparian landowners are entitled to make reasonable use of the waters that abut their property subject to the reasonable use of other riparians. This research guide explores riparian rights in the United States, specifically California, New York, and Colorado. These three states demonstrate the various views on riparian rights from West Coast, Midwest, and East Coast such as common-law Riparianism, Prior Appropriation, and Regulated Riparianism.
Riparian Land - "A tract of land that borders on a watercourse or lake, whether or not it includes a part of the bed of the watercourse or lake." Restatement (Second) of Torts § 843 (1979). *Westlaw subscription required.
Riparian Land - "1. Land that includes part of the bed of a watercourse or lake. 2. Land that borders on a public watercourse or public lake whose bed is owned by the public." Black's Law Dictionary (10th edition 2014).
The Riparian-Rights Doctrine - "The rule that owners of land bordering on a waterway have equal rights to use the water passing through or by their property." Black's Law Dictionary (10th edition 2014).
Riparian Right on Findlaw.com The right of one owning riparian land to have access to and use of the shore and water"
Depending on state law, where a land owner's riparian land begins and ends depends on the high and/or low watermark.
Watermark - "A mark indicating the highest or lowest point to which water rises or falls."
High-water mark - "The shoreline of a sea reached by the water at high tide. . . 3. In a river not subject to tides, the line that the river impresses on the soil by covering it long enough to deprive it of agricultural value. — Also termed high-water line."
Low-water mark - "The shoreline of a sea marking the edge of the water at the lowest point of the ordinary ebb tide. 2. In a river, the point to which the water recedes at its lowest stage."
Black's Law Dictionary (10th ed. 2014).
See Klein, Cheever, Birdsong, Natural Resources Law: A Place-Based Book of Problems & Cases (Aspen 3d ed. 2013).
Legislative history was unavailable for 16 U.S.C.A. § 460aa–8.