Water Rights

What are water rights?

Water RightsOwners of property that border a body of water have certain rights related to that water (water rights).  Additionally, landowners who use water, such as farmers, have rights related to water usage.  Below you will learn what you need to know about these rights for your real estate licensing exam.  Keep in mind, state law governs the use and ownership of water, so these concepts do vary state to state.

What are riparian water rights?

Riparian water rights are appurtenant to land bordering flowing water, such as streams or rivers.  Riparian starts with “R,” and so does river.  That’s an easy way to remember riparian rights are attached (appurtenant) to land bordering flowing water.  They are appurtenant, meaning they are connected to the land, not to a person.

There are two additional terms you need to know for your exam related to riparian rights.  A navigable waterway can be used by a commercial vessel.  A non-navigable waterway cannot.

A landowner of land which borders a navigable waterway owns the property up to the high-water mark at the water’s edge.  The government owns the water and land beneath it, and the public has an easement right to travel on the water.

Lastly, a landowner of land which borders a non-navigable waterway owns the property up to the center of the water.

What are littoral water rights?

Littoral rights are appurtenant to land along large bodies of water which are not flowing, such as the sea, a lake or the ocean.  Ownership of land with littoral rights extends to the high-water mark.

What is the doctrine of prior appropriation?

The doctrine of prior appropriation is state-specific and applies in states where water is scarce.  This doctrine varies from state to state but does place the right to control water resources in the hands of the state, rather than individual property owners.  To obtain the right to appropriate (divert) water, the landowner would need to apply for a permit issued by the state.  Whoever holds the oldest recorded permit date would have priority of the water rights.  The owner of the rights may sell them to another.

Related terms you need to know for your real estate license exam:

Accretion:  The increase of land resulting from deposits of soil from water’s action.  The owner of the land would own any newly deposited soil.

Alluvion:  Newly deposited soil as a result of accretion.

Avulsion:  The sudden loss of land as a result of a natural act, such as an earthquake.

Erosion:  The gradual wearing away of land.

Reliction:  The receding of water, which uncovers new land.

What else can help me prepare to pass my real estate licensing exam on my first attempt?

Other tips to help you pass your real estate licensing exam on your first attempt:

Real Estate Test Taking Tips

How to Pass the Real Estate Exam

Real Estate Exam Math Made Easy

Also, check out our question of the day videos on our YouTube channel:

PassMasters Real Estate Exam Prep YouTube Channel