West’s Encyclopedia of American Laws

According to West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, the definition of Riparian Water Rights is the right regarding the use of water given to the owner of a land which is adjacent to a water source (river or a stream). This use can be for drinking or irrigation purposes and the degree of rights of use given to these people differs from state to state. (The Free Dictionary) On the other hand, appropriative rights have nothing to do with the relationship between the water and land. It is based on the material control and positive use of water.

These rights are given away at a price by issuing a sort of license for a specific period of time (National Science and Technology Center). The difference between the two is the presence or absence of relation between the land and the water. There has been an ongoing debate regarding what uses can be made of the water available to them under riparian rights. Should they be allowed to sell it? Should they be allowed to disrupt the water flow of water by damming or channeling it from its natural course?

(The Free Dictionary) In my opinion, the authorities responsible for giving out the rights should document in detail all the possible uses that can be made of the water by the owners of the land bordering a water source. One thing that should be kept in mind while documenting these uses is that the water source must not be used in any way which is unreasonable and will degrade fresh water or for any unethical purpose. I believe that there should be only one way of determining rights because this way it would be much more systemized and uncomplicated.

Appropriative rights could be used because this ensures that the water is used for beneficial purposes and it is not misused. There are lesser issues involved in appropriative rights which make it more convenient to implement.


  • (2008) Riparian Rights. Retrieved July 26, 2008 from The Free Dictionary. Web site: http://legal-dictionary. thefreedictionary. com/Riparian+water+rights
  • National Science and Technology Center (2008) Water Appropriation Systems. Retrieved July 26, 2008 from Bureau of Land Management. Web site: http://www.blm.gov/nstc/WaterLaws/appsystems.html