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Can a property owner prevent access to a stream or river?

On Behalf of | Oct 10, 2023 | Real Estate Disputes |

Water access can be crucial for someone’s agricultural endeavors or use of their property. People sometimes select specific parcels because they are close to reliable sources of water. The properties that actually contain streams or rivers can be both prohibitively expensive and less likely to go on the real estate market for sale.

People may therefore need to look into how they can access nearby water sources that are not actually on their property. In theory, Texas law protects some degree of water access rights for individuals and businesses. When can a property owner deny others access to a river or stream?

The rule depends on the size of the waterway

Texas law actually has a very clear rule regarding when a property owner can restrict access to a waterway. The primary concern is who owns the streambed or ground under the flowing water. If the waterway is navigable, meaning that it is wide and deep enough for people to operate vessels on it, then the riverbed or streambed is likely state property. In that scenario, there are public access rights regardless of who owns the abutting property.

However, if the waterway is too small to be navigable, then the streambed or riverbed likely belongs to a private property owner rather than the state. In that situation, they could potentially deny access to others.

It may be necessary to review maps to determine whether the state classifies a specific stream or river as navigable. Occasionally, those denied access to a waterway may need to take legal action to gain access. Other times, property owners may need to go to court to assert their right to exclude others from a stream or river on their property.

Ultimately, seeking legal guidance to make better sense of the unique water rights rules that apply in Texas can help people maximize the potential of their real property.


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