Water Rights as Property Rights in Georgia

Water Rights as Property Rights in Georgia

Landowners in Georgia are deemed to have certain rights to water. The courts have established that water is an aspect of private property that is subject to its own form of protection. The rights of ownership to water depends on the type of body of water and whether the water is used as a boundary.

Rights of owners with water as a boundary

Certain water bodies, such as lakes, rivers, and streams can be used as boundaries separating property. When the boundary between properties is a non-navigable stream, each owner is deemed to control half of the water stream unless the deed specifically provides otherwise. In contrast, in navigable streams (streams that can be used to transport boats with cargo), the boundary line is demarcated at the low-water mark of the riverbed.  In lakes and ponds, the boundary line also extends to the low water mark. When a lake or river is known to produce currents, then the rule for streams may be used instead. Finally, in bays, harbors, oceans and tidelands the boundary is set at the high-water mark. The state holds the rights to the area between high and low tide in this category of water.

Rights of owners adjacent to waters

In Georgia, riparian rights (allocation of water rights among land owners along its path) follows a natural flow theory that is subject to reasonable use by owners. This means that all property owners along the water path may use the water in the stream in a reasonable manner. Riparian owners are not permitted to divert the natural flow of the water to create a new waterway. While owners with property adjacent to a waterway retain the right to reasonable use of the water, they do not automatically secure the right to go on the water for other purposes, such as swimming or fishing. For example, while the owner who borders a lake may use its waters, he does not have the legal right to fish or swim in the lake because his rights do not extend to the bed of the lake. An owner who uses the water for these purposes could be subject to legal action for trespassing.

The experienced team of attorneys at the Law Offices of Mark Weinstein, P.C. can help you litigate your real estate claims. Contact Mark Weinstein and his colleagues at (770) 888-7707 or visit them at https://www.markweinsteinlaw.com to find out how they can advise you.