watercourse. A body of water, usu. of natural origin, flowing in a reasonably definite channel with bed and banks. • The term includes not just rivers and creeks, but also springs, lakes, and marshes in which such flowing streams originate or through which they flow. — Also termed waterway. [Cases: Waters and Water Courses 38. C.J.S. Waters §§ 3–8, 91.]
“Once water joins a watercourse it becomes subject to state control; in appropriation states it becomes available for appropriation to private uses according to state law …. [A] watercourse could be defined to include not only rivers and lakes, but every tiny brook flowing into them, all the gullies through which water flows to the brooks, the snowpack and rainfall that feed them, and the evaporating or transpiring water in the process of forming clouds. But we need not require scientists to trace water to such remote sources because it would be beyond the ability of governments to regulate these sources. Legal definitions are intended to define a point beyond which a state does not regulate water use. Usually that point is when water is not in a ‘natural stream’.” David H. Getches, Water Law in a Nutshell 106–07 (3d ed. 1997).
ancient watercourse.A watercourse in a channel that has existed from time immemorial.
artificial watercourse.A man-made watercourse, usu. to be used only temporarily. • If the watercourse is of a permanent character and has been maintained for a sufficient length of time, it may be considered a natural watercourse to which riparian rights can attach. [Cases: Waters and Water Courses 168. C.J.S. Waters §§ 297–304.]
“An artificial waterway or stream may, under some circumstances, have the characteristics and incidents of a natural watercourse. In determining the question, three things seem generally to be taken into consideration by the courts: (1) whether the way or stream is temporary or permanent; (2) the circumstances under which it was created; and (3) the mode in which it has been used and enjoyed.” 78 Am. Jur. 2d Waters § 196, at 644 (1975).
natural watercourse.A watercourse with its origin in the forces of nature. • A natural watercourse does not include surface water, which often flows intermittently and in an indefinite channel. In addition, a natural stream is distinguished from an artificial ditch or canal, which is typically not the subject of riparian rights. See RIPARIAN RIGHT; WATER. [Cases: Waters and Water Courses 38. C.J.S. Waters §§ 3–8, 91.]
[Blacks Law 8th]