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Michigan Riparian Rights Are Water Rights

Michigan has a lot of water--a whopping estimated 6 quadrillion gallons of fresh water. Michigan has four of the five Great Lakes which constitutes 90% of the United States' fresh surface water, and about 20% of the world's fresh surface water.

Michigan has approximately 3,288 miles of Great Lakes coastline, more than 10,000 inland lakes and ponds and is interwoven by a 35,000-mile web of freshwater rivers, streams, and wetlands.

With that so much 'blue gold,' Michigan water law, known as riparian law, has developed to regulate, divide, and protect the waters of this State.

A few of our water rights appellate victories

Michigan Supreme Court | Maniaci v Diroff (Traverse City, Michigan)

A few others

  • Morse v Colitti - Michigan Court of Appeals [Link]
  • LaFave v Ionia County Rd Comm'n - Michigan Supreme Court [Link]
  • Wenners v Chisolm - Michigan Supreme Court [Link] [Link]
  • Studley v Twp of Hill - Michigan Court of Appeals [Link]

    Michigan landowners have a legal right to use the surface waters immediately adjacent to their property. Land is riparian when it includes or is bounded by a natural watercourse. Littoral land includes or abuts a lake. These exclusive rights including the right to erect and maintain docks along the owner's shore and the right to anchor boats permanently off the owner's shore. Within a subdivision (platted property), non-riparian owners may not acquire riparian rights by conveyance or reservation, but may acquire easements, licenses, and other legal forms for right-of-way access to the water.

    Michigan Riparian Rights Resource Center

    Infomation About Riparian Rights

    However, these water rights are not absolute and are limited by the existence of certain property rights of others. The activities of riparians must be undertaken in a reasonable manner as not to interfere unnecessarily with the corresponding rights of others including the public.

    Nonriparian owners and members of the public who gain access to a navigable waterbody also have a right to use the surface of the water in a reasonable manner for boating, fishing and swimming. An incidental to the public's right of navigation is the right to anchor boats temporarily.

    Issues that often arise with riparian property include:

    Protect Your Rights

    If you are having issues with neighbors, community members, or the public with your public or private lake access or lake front property, contact a riparian rights attorney by contacting the office today.