Water Rights Law and Legal Definition
Water right refers to the right of a user to use water from a water source. This right includes the right to use water from any water source like a river, stream, pond and source of groundwater. Rights to water are established by actual use of the water, and maintained by continued use and need. Water rights are treated similarly to rights to real property, can be conveyed, mortgaged, and encumbered in the same manner, all independently of the land on which the water originates, or on which it is used.
Generally, a water right is established after obtaining an authorization from the state in the form of a water right permit. This right is a matter of conflict in certain areas where there is scarcity of water. In areas with plentiful water the question of violation of water right does not arise. In some areas water right is given in respect of surface water and ground water also.
In the U. S., the two divergent systems used for determining water rights include riparian water rights and prior appropriation water rights. Usage of water right in each state depends upon the custom, culture, geography, legislation and case law of each state. For instance California law uses both riparian and prior appropriation system for determination of water rights.