Riparian Rights and Your Sprinkler System

First things first: Riparian rights are the rights a landowner has to water that flows through or directly beside his or her property. Now, you probably don’t want to drink the water from that slightly murky pond in your backyard. But there are other ways riparian rights can save money on your water bill. You may be able to route water from the lake, stream, or pond through your sprinkler or irrigation system, and avoid using city water (and paying for it) to water your lawn.

The rules vary from state to state, and east coast homeowners generally have riparian rights with few restrictions. Most western states either never granted them, or have since rescinded them. In California, for example, property owners can apply for some rights, but they’re restricted. Lawsuits are common, as many property owners knowingly or unknowingly break the rules. Want to know more? It’s complicated, and the California State Water Resources Control Board is a good place to start.

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On the east coast, many homeowners use water from ponds, lakes or streams that run through or beside their property to keep their grass and plants healthy. Unless you really know your stuff, setting up an irrigation system like this will probably require the help of a professional, who can also make sure you aren’t breaking any local laws and that the water isn’t contaminated. If everything works out, you could save a bundle on water costs.

And a sprinkler or irrigation system generally increases the value of your property, because it is considered real property. A system that uses free water will be even more valuable to a potential buyer since maintenance will be their only cost. Using a sprinkler system properly can also save you the cost of re-sodding your lawn for curb appeal.

Riparian rights are fun for swimmers, too. Because they also grant you the right to swim, build a dock, or have lake parties. (Actually, lake parties have nothing to do with riparian rights. But they’re fun, and you should definitely have them.) Know your riparian rights, and enjoy!