Florida Rivers, Springs, Lakes, And Aquifers Are Navigable Waterways With Riparian Rights?


  • Author Davey Crockett
  • Published May 11, 2016
  • Word count 846

The Peace River headwaters in west central Florida are naturally spring fed by local aquifers "contained" in the landscape. The River "meanders" some 120 miles to the Charlotte Harbor estuary, numerous small springs continuously feed the river along the way with fresh, clear aquifer water. The Peace River headwaters and watersheds are a critical link in the environmental health chain for all floras and fauna in the region and downstream over one hundred miles to Charlotte Harbor.

The Peace River, smaller rivers, streams, and watersheds are also defined as a "navigable waterway" with riparian rights since 1845, at the time of Florida’s statehood (1). Navigable waterways are public domain and may be used for trade, travel, and leisure. "The Public Trust Doctrine" protects one's rights for all public waterways or "navigable waterways", and all riparian rights based on adjacent navigable waterways to the "high water mark." The area of land from the low water mark to the high water mark is defined as riparian land, and the rest is a navigable waterway (public domain) by state law. The ‘doctrine’ above covers both freshwater and saltwater interest.

Public domain water rights to navigable waters including rivers, streams, springs, aquifers, lakes, ponds, marshland, bogs, water tables, and the like. Riparian rights are those incidents to land bordering and adjacent to navigable waters. The navigable waters may not be altered by anyone but the state of Florida. This is based on the sovereignty given to Florida and all lands within its boundaries by the United States federal government upon passing to statehood (1845) from land purchased earlier from Spain in the ‘Florida Treaty’ (3).

Unfortunately, Florida phosphate industry strip mines are also located in the region of the Peace River and its watersheds. Even though the phosphate industry may not have the rights to do so, they use huge draglines to strip public navigable (public) waterways from the earth and leave what they do not want to sit in huge pits containing the wasted freshwater reserves. This is clearly shown to the public by Google© Maps.

The phosphate industry does not seem to abide by the "Public Trust Doctrine" based on empirical industry practices approved by phosphate officials.

One can see the proof by looking at west central Florida, through Google© Maps. The environmental destruction can easily be seen from the "eye in the sky." State and local officials also know the environmental damage is evident for all to see. Interestingly, this information is not brought to the forefront of public opinion by the environmental agencies charged with protecting the navigable waterways even as the waterways are being strip from the central Florida earth daily.

By state law, public waterways cannot be re-routed, slowed, stopped, reversed or altered in any way based on the Public Trust Doctrine of navigable waterways, and riparian rights. Public "navigable waterways" and riparian rights include above and below ground water resources.

However, the state may sell large tracts of land holding navigable waterways and riparian rights. However, the landowner does not have the right to alter the navigable waterways in these tracts of land if the consumption of the riparian and navigable waterways is not "reasonably used". Riparian rights give the land owner rights to consumption with reasonable use "only".

Historically, Florida’s phosphate industry officials do not seem to follow the "reasonable use restrictions" required by riparian rights and navigable waterway laws.

Downstream users of public waterways also have rights to the public navigable waterway resources flowing from upstream as well. Meaning, upstream users do not have the right to re-route, slow, stop, or over-pump the public natural navigable water resources more than "reasonable use" offers. The above includes natural flow rates, watercourse, physical condition, undiminished water quantity and quality (2).

In Florida, when surface water is over consumed, or underground water is over-pumped by one party, other parties with an interest in the water resource may sue for damages based on state law for "unreasonable use" of public (state) water resources.

"Reasonable use" is defined as riparian landowner rights to use navigable waterway surface water or ground water, but cannot interfere with the riparian rights of adjacent landowners or downstream property owner’s rights to the same navigable waterway or have adverse effects on quality or quantity of public drinking water.

Drinking water refers to the water being wasted by the phosphate industry pumped from water-tables or aquifers and surface water resources which are public domain, owned by the state (public), not the phosphate industry.

When one analyzes the information above, the rights described above do exist and are to be enforced by the state of Florida. However, phosphate officials continue to clash with the rights of others set forth by the state of Florida by strip mining navigable waterways and causing severe environmental impacts to Florida’s drinking water.


  1. State of Florida -leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=0200-0299/0253/Sections/0253.141.html.

  2. Effects of Groundwater. - pubs.usgs.gov/circ/circ1186/html/gw_effect.html.

  3. Riparian Rights Doctrine. - ndsu.edu/pubweb/~saxowsky/aglawtextbk/chapters/waterlaw/Riparian.html.

Davey Crockett @ Florida Mines – https://www.flmines.com – Read more about severe environmental impacts to thousands of acres of pristine central Florida landscape being stripped-mined daily by Florida’s mega-mining phosphate industry draglines.

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