What Determines a Landowner’s Water Rights?

Water rights are the legal rights of a landowner to make use of a supply of water that sits on, next to or below a piece of owned land. Water rights can be an extremely valuable asset for a piece of undeveloped land in Alpine, TX.

But how are these rights determined? This depends on where you live, but there are some general principles all landowners should be aware of. Here’s a quick overview of what you should know.

Varying formats of water rights

Different parts of the country have different rules with regard to water rights. In the eastern part of the United States, riparian water rights allow landowners access to bodies of water that adjoin their lands. If you sell a lakefront property, you also sell the riparian water rights to the property—you cannot separate those water rights from the land and attempt to hold them yourself or sell those water rights separately.

In the western United States, rights to water in the land might be sold separately, though you cannot purchase riparian water rights separate from the land. You maybe able to sell surface or subterranean water with the land, but they might be owned by other parties already.

California is unique in that it uses a hybrid version of these rights that is applied to various real estate transactions. In California, property owners whose lands lie on top of water in underground basins have a right to use wells to draw water from those basins. If you sell the property and have been drawing groundwater from it, the new owner then gains the right to draw that groundwater. However, any surface waters, groundwater rights or subterranean streams might also be able to be sold separately from the land.

A few states, like Texas, allow landowners “absolute dominion” of groundwater beneath their land, which provides landowners with more options for sales.

It’s very important that you know your water rights as a landowner, especially in western states where water can be a scarce and highly valuable resource. The use and ownership of that water is likely to be very tightly regulated due to its scarcity. The water rights on a property can have a significant influence on its sale or purchase and its overall value.

There may be circumstances in which you own the right to use water associated with your land, but you do not actually possess traditional ownership of that water. The best thing you can do is check the laws and ordinances in your local area before purchasing any piece of property so you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into with your water rights.

Are you interested in learning more about how to prepare for buying land in Alpine, TX, including the water rights and other rights you should be aware of? Contact Carpenter Real Estate today to speak with a qualified realtor. We will be happy to answer any questions you have about water rights, and we look forward to working with you to resolve your issues.