Which States Have Riparian Water Rights?

Which States Have Riparian Water Rights?

Which States Have Riparian Water Rights?

Riparian water rights, which are typically associated with landownership adjacent to flowing water bodies like rivers and streams, are a common framework in many eastern U.S. states.

It’s important to note that the specifics of riparian rights can vary between states due to regional legal interpretations and historical factors.

The eastern states predominantly follow the riparian rights doctrine for surface water allocation. This includes states like New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, and Louisiana.

Under riparian rights, landowners adjacent to water bodies have the right to make reasonable use of the water. Riparian rights are viewed as attached to the land and transfers with property ownership. There is no permitting required to exercise riparian rights.

Some western states like California, Oklahoma, Texas, and Nebraska also recognize some riparian rights, in combination with the prior appropriation system more common in the west. A few other western states have riparian rights that predate their appropriative rights systems but are extremely limited now.

There are some variations in riparian rights between states in terms of factors like:

  • Extent of riparian land ownership required
  • Allowable types of water use
  • Liability for alterations in water flow/quantity
  • Permitting requirements for large withdrawals

But the core principles of adjacency and reasonable use are consistent across riparian doctrine states.

List Of Some States Where Riparian Water Rights

Here is a list of some states where riparian water rights are traditionally recognized:

  1. Eastern United States: Riparian rights are commonly observed in eastern states where water resources are generally more abundant. Examples include:
    • New York
    • Pennsylvania
    • New Jersey
    • Virginia
    • North Carolina
    • South Carolina
    • Georgia
    • Florida
    • Louisiana
  2. Midwestern United States: Many states in the Midwest, which are typically characterized by a significant presence of rivers and streams, also recognize riparian water rights. Some examples include:
    • Ohio
    • Indiana
    • Illinois
    • Wisconsin
    • Minnesota
    • Michigan
  3. Other Eastern and Midwestern States: Additional states in the eastern and Midwestern regions may also uphold riparian rights, though the details can differ between jurisdictions.

It’s important to note that even within states that recognize riparian rights, specific laws and regulations governing these rights can vary, and the application of these rights may be influenced by local conditions and legal interpretations.

Additionally, in western U.S. states where water resources are scarcer and where water rights are often governed by the prior appropriation doctrine, riparian rights are typically less common or take on a different form.

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