Do you have a riparian water right? If your property borders or crosses a natural stream, then you probably do. If you are unsure, then read the best explanation I have seen, in plain language, in this short document:
What can destroy your riparian water right?
- A property split, if it results in a subdivided parcel that no longer borders the stream.
- A Superior Court Decree, while it does not take away riparian water rights, can restrict how much and when that riparian water right can be used during irrigation season.
- A stream can move through the process of erosion, so that a property no longer touches a stream. How much movement is enough? “It depends.” If it is gradual, and the diversion remains active, then the riparian water right is probably still secure. If a stream suddenly moves, so that it cuts through the property on the other side, and now there is a piece of that property between your parcel and the stream, this avulsion could very well remove a riparian water right. The water right would only be definitely lost through some action of the Water Board, state Superior Court, or federal court.
- A person or agency can take a piece of property along the stream. A person might try and succeed in getting part of your property through adverse possession. So, always pay your taxes, and notify anyone who leases or regularly accesses your property that you retain full ownership. An agency might take it to build a levee, or create a corridor of riparian habitat. In either case, your parcel would be severed from the stream.
How can you protect your riparian water right?
Know the law – print out Chuck’s explanation and read it every few years.
Put it in your property deed. How should that be done?
- The best way would be to get the help of an experienced water rights attorney who has written riparian water right provisions for property. There are very few of these attorneys and they can be hard to find.
- Put in plain English what you want to do. What might you include?
- State that the property has a riparian water right, name the stream, and describe the diversion point, place of use, and purpose of use. Include an Assessor Parcel Map of your parcel(s). If possible, include photographs.
- State that this riparian water right is retained even if the stream moves, gradually or suddenly, away from your parcel.
- State that it is your intent, and it will be the intent of you, your heirs, and any other purchaser, to retain the riparian water rights for any subdivided parcel, whether adjacent to the stream or now.
If you have a parcel that was severed in the past, but that parcel has used the
same diversion point continuously from the time before the subdivision, state in your deed that the intent at the time of the subdivision was to retain riparian water rights for your parcel, and that you have continued to divert under riparian right of claim, and that you do have a riparian water right.