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Water Law: Home


Water law is the field of law dealing with the ownership, control, and use of water as a resource. It is related to property law (with some similarities to Oil & Gas law). Recently, water law has also been influenced by environmental law. Because of the importance of water, laws attempting to regulate water law can have far-reaching effects. The legal system controlling water rights varies by region. The variance between the regions is largely historical and geographical. Water law touches upon an array of subjects to resolve disputes and policy issues relating to water. This means water law is a combination of common and statutory law.


Acre-foot: A volume measurement, as of coal, water, or other material, equal to the amount that will cover one acre of land to a depth of one foot (approximately 325,850 gallons of liquid).

Correlative-rights doctrine: The principle that adjoining landowners must limit their use of a common water source to a reasonable amount.

Diversion: A deviation or alteration from the natural course of things; especially, the unauthorized alteration of a watercourse to the detriment of a lower riparian owner.

Drainage Rights: The interest that a property owner has in the natural drainage and flow of water on the land.

Fauces terrae: [Latin “narrow passage of the land”] A body of water that experiences tides and is partially enclosed by land. This includes inlets, rivers, harbors, creeks, bays, basins, and similar aquatic bodies.

Leaching: The process by which moving fluid separates the soluble components of a material. Under CERCLA, leaching is considered a release of contaminants. The term is sometimes used to describe the migration of contaminating materials, by rain or groundwater, from a fixed source, such as a landfill.

Riparian: Of, relating to, or located on the bank of a river or stream (or occasionally another body of water, such as a lake).

Rule of CaptureThe principle that a surface landowner can extract and appropriate all the groundwater beneath the land by drilling or pumping, even if doing so drains away groundwaters to the point of drying up springs and wells from which other landowners benefit. • This doctrine has been widely abolished or limited by legislation.

Tributary: A stream flowing directly or indirectly into a river.

Water Right: A right to take or receive a specific volume of water for a particular use at a specified place and time.

All definitions are from Black's Law Dictionary (11th ed. 2019).

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Bloomberg Law: On the main page type in "Water Law" in the search box on the home page, and select All Legal Content from the drop down menu. You may then refine your search results by date or by source type using the filters on the left side of the screen.

Lexis Advance: On the main page type in "Water Law" in the search box on the home page. You may then refine your search results by date or by source type using the filters on the left side of the screen.

Westlaw: On the main page type in "Water Law" in the search box on the home page. You may then refine your search results by date or by source type using the filers on the left side of the screen.

Treatises & Print Resources

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Bureau of Reclamation-- Established in 1902, the Bureau of reclamation is best known for the dams, powerplants, and canals it constructed in the 17 western states. these water projects led to homesteading and promoted the economic development of the West. Reclamation has constructed more than 600 dams and reservoirs including Hoover Dam and the Colorado River and Grand Coulee on the Columbia River.

Environmental Protection Agency-- Main website of the Environmental Protection Agency. There are lots of resources for the various programs the EPA runs. There is also access to laws and regulations that are influences by the EPA.

National Institutes for Water Resources-- the National Institutes for Water Resources (NTWR) plays a major role, by providing a national platform for research, training, and collaboration needed to manage water resources. Housed in the country's top land-grant universities, NTWR's institutes assist state and federal governments in advancing sustainable management of water supplies.

National Resources Conservation Service-- As the leading Federal agency for assisting in restoring watershed health on private land, NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to producers who implement conservation practices and management strategies, including the restoration and protection of wetlands, that benefit water quality and improve water management.

Texas States Historical Association-- The Texas state historical association's overview of the historical development of water law in Texas.

Texas Water code-- Online access to the Texas Water code.

U.S. Geographical Survey-- Water is one of six science mission areas of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Water's mission is to collect and disseminate reliable, impartial, and timely information that is needed to understand the Nation's water resources.