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Frequently Asked Questions:
- Who owns the Water? In Kansas, water is not considered property unless you have a legal property right to it. Want to know more about water law? The Kansas Department of Agriculture is a great place to start learning more about water rights in Kansas.
- Who owns/controls the land next to the River? Riparian rights are a type of water rights awarded to landowners whose property is located along flowing bodies of water, such as rivers or streams. In the event the water is a non-navigable waterway, the landowner generally owns the land beneath the water to the exact center of the waterway. However, if the water is designated as “navigable” (like the Arkansas River):
- Navigable Waters of the United States: There are 3 “Navigable” rivers in Kansas, the Arkansas, Kansas (Kaw) and the Missouri. Navigable waters of the United States are “those waters that are subject to the ebb and flow of the tide and/or are presently used, or have been used in the past, or may be susceptible for use to transport interstate or foreign commerce. A determination of navigability, once made, applies laterally over the entire surface of the waterbody, and is not extinguished by later actions or events which impede or destroy navigable capacity.” Navigability of a water body is a determination made by the United States Army Corps of Engineers.
- What’s all that mean? Well, it means that, you have the legal right to be between the “ordinary high water mark” on either side of the river, as long as you are accessing the river from a public access point, and you do not venture above that “high water mark” onto privately owned land. Unlike the other streams in Kansas, the area between those “high water marks” are not private property – the landowner on either side ONLY owns the land down to the “high water mark.”
- Ordinary High water mark? Interpreting high water mark isn’t always easy. Basically, it means, if there are signs of permanent vegetation at a certain spot on the bank, that’s probably the highest the river has been in awhile and most people would see that as an “ordinary high water mark.”