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

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 nonriparian lands.

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 case-by-case basis. 



The following activities require a state or township permit.

  • Any actions which would deny other riparians and members of the public the full use of the lake surface for navigational purposes.
  • 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 stream.
  • 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.  

Riparian Responsibilities

Fall trees reflecting on water way

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 waters:

If you have a septic system;

  • have your tank pumped out & inspected at least every 3-5 years
  • 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 sewer
  • 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 septic system
  • 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 to live!
  • 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 brochure on  Septic Systems

Practice healthy lawn and garden practices;

  • house with green lawnMaintain 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 pollutants.
  • 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 at 248-858-0902.
  • 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 WATERCOURSES! 

Use these car care tips;

  • Take your car 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 transferring fluids.

Additional Information

For more information about Riparian rights, contact:

Michigan Lake & Stream Association

For more information about household pollution prevention, contact:

Bloomfield Township Engineering & Environmental Services Department 248-594-2800 or send an Email

The above information has been compiled from the Michigan Lake & Stream Association website, correspondence with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and Southeastern Oakland County Resource Recovery Authority (SOCRRA).