Riparian Rights

Riparian rights are rights to the waters of rivers, streams, lakes and other bodies of water that arise by virtue of, and attach to the real property that abuts such courses or bodies of water. The rights attach to the real property in question and cannot be alienated from the real property. The rights similarly cannot be lost by non-use, although they can be lost by prescription, grant, condemnation, or natural change in the course of a waterway. Riparian rights are considered “usufructuary” rights, meaning they are rights to use water, but not ownership rights in the water. As explained further below, riparian rights are limited by the rights of other users and the general public, and owners of such rights are considered tenants in common of the subject water source. The riparian rights to undergrounds streams or courses of water generally follow the rules applicable to surface riparian rights – e.g., underground streams flowing under an owner’s real property – although this is discussed in greater length below.