Riparian Rights & Responsibilities
A riparian is a person who owns a parcel of land which
borders a natural body of water within the boundaries of the
State of Michigan.
Riparian rights are property
rights which run with the land which include access and
“reasonable” use of the water. The riparian cannot grant
permission to a nonriparian to withdraw water for use on land
that is not riparian to that water body. For example,
commercial landscapers can pump water to use on the riparian
property, but cannot fill up a tanker and use on other
If you have a concern that someone is
using the waters of the state unjustly, you may call the
Oakland County Storm Water Action Team (SWAT) at 248.858.0931
to report any suspicious activity.
Should water levels become a
concern and the "reasonable" use of a riparian is questioned,
another riparian owner would have to file a civil lawsuit
against the property owner. It would be evaluated on a
The following activities require a state or township
- Any actions which would deny other riparians and members
of the public the full use of the lake surface for
- Dredging or filling bottomland.
- Constructing, enlarging, extending, removing, or placing
a structure on bottomland.
- Erecting, maintaining or operating a marina.
- Creating, enlarging or diminishing an inland lake or
- Structurally interfering with the natural flow of an
inland lake or stream.
- Filling or dredging a wetland contiguous to a lake.
- Connecting any natural or artificial waterway to an
inland lake or stream.
Riparians have a special
responsibility to prevent pollutants from entering the water.
Some common pollutants include lawn fertilizers, runoff from
driveways, roofs and walkways, lawn clippings and leaves, soil
from the shoreline or streambank, lawn & garden pesticides,
oil & gas from autos (and boats), and septic system effluent.
What you can do to prevent pollution from entering the
If you have a septic system;
- have your tank pumped out & inspected at least every 3-5
- consider installing an effluent filter (talk with your
septic service technician)
- spread out laundry loads – doing many consecutive loads
can overload system
- practice water conservation – a good rule for everyone
whether their home is served by a septic system or sanitary
- fix leaks – one drop per second from a leaking faucet
can add up to 113 gallons of water wasted each month!
- dispose of hazardous household chemicals properly- not
down the drain
- keep accurate records of maintenance and location of
- divert roof & footing drains and surface water away from
the septic system
- do not use commercial septic tank additives
- keep antibiotics and antibacterial soaps out of system-
your septic tank is a place where you actually want bacteria
- do not use a garbage disposal – grinded food from a
garbage disposal decomposes more slowly than liquid waste
and adds to the solids in the tank
- read this important PDF brochure on Septic Systems
Practice healthy lawn and garden practices;
Maintain a minimum 25-foot buffer area adjacent to water
body where no fertilizer is applied (per Township Fertilizer
Regulations). Consider planting native wildflowers, grasses
and/or shrubs in this area which trap soil and other
- Soil test your lawn prior to adding fertilizer to see
what your lawn actually needs. Soil tests are available at
local retailers and through the Oakland County MSU Extension
- When using fertilizer, choose a slow-release nitrogen
and low-or no phosphorus formula (depending on the results
of the soil test).
- Mow grass high- a 2/12-3 inch blade is optimum for water
conservation and promoting root growth.
- Avoid weed-n-feed products- combination products often
add unnecessary herbicides to the environment. A better
approach is to identify the weed of concern and selectively
spot treat the weed(s) with appropriate herbicide.
- Dispose of yard waste properly per Township requirements
or try home composting - NEVER DUMP YARD WASTE IN
Use these car care tips;
- Take your care to a car wash for cleaning. Washing cars
in your driveway can add pollutants such as detergents,
oils, greases, heavy metals & dirt to our precious
waterways. If a commercial car wash is not available, then
wash your car on the lawn to help prevent dirty, soapy water
from entering storm drains or roadside ditches.
- If you change vehicle fluids at home, take the waste
fluids to a recycling center or an oil change facility.
Always use a drip pan under your work and use funnels when
For more information about Riparian rights, contact:
Michigan Lake & Stream Association
Click here to email
For more information about household pollution prevention,
Bloomfield Township Engineering & Environmental Services
Department, Phone: 248.594.2800 or send an email to
The above information has been compiled from
Lake & Stream Association website, correspondence with the
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and Southeastern
Oakland County Resource Recovery Authority (SOCRRA).