Riparian water rights give ownership of water rights to all land owners whose property is next to a body of water. This means that anyone living near a stream, lake, river, or other water source can use the water in reasonable ways as long as there is enough to go around. If their use is affecting the use of other vested rights owners, then the problem will be handed to the state authorities to determine the allotted amount of water that each party can use. Usually, this is done by measuring the frontage that a person has. For example, someone with half an acre of water frontage will have far more right to its reasonable use than someone with only one-tenth of an acre of frontage.
Riparian water rights are fairly lenient and most often used in the Eastern U.S. where water supply is abundant. The rights of these landowners are not able to be sold or transferred unless it is with the adjoining land, and the water cannot be taken out of the basin or water shed. Riparian water rights cover everything from access for boating, swimming, and fishing to the right to build docks, redirect water for irrigation, and even the right to use water for other domestic purposes. These rights include ground water and surface water designation, which is important to note.
Riparian water rights need to be used for reasonable use, which is a highly subjective topic. As long as the use is not negatively affecting other rights holders or land owners nearby, you should be able to do whatever you want with the water rights that you have. Everything in the riparian water rights system is done to be ass equal and fair as possible so that everyone can enjoy use of the water that is near their land.
Riparian water rights come from English common law and are much more relaxed regulations than those placed by other states that use the prior appropriations laws and statutes. With water regulation and distribution changing daily, there are more restrictions put on riparian water rights than ever before, but it really isn’t something that is heavily regulated even still. It can all seem very confusing if you aren’t familiar with water rights, but taking the time to learn about your own rights and what you can do to obtain water rights for reasonable use is essential to your full enjoyment of the land that you own.