The fragmented institutional structure of riparian water rights constituted obstacles to achieving an efficient and comprehensive water-resource management system, thus the development of a surface water permit system.

A riparian area refers to an area that acts as an interface between land, and a stream or river. consequently, riparian water rights refers to the system of allocating water on the basis of riparian land ownership. The Riparian doctrine was introduce in Texas over 200 years ago by Hispanic settlers in San Antonio, Texas. the Hispanic practices and legal principles became the blue print from which land title was granted. During this time, and through the 19th Century, riparian land was granted and the benefits included the right of riparian land owners to take water from the streams and rivers for purposes of irrigation. This can be best demonstrated in the case of Motl v Boyd (1926). the case was about the rights of Hispanics to take water from streams for irrigation (Rio Grande). In this case, the Supreme Court of Texas decided that the owner of riparian land had the right to use riparian waters not only for household and domestic purposes, but for irrigation purposes as well (Hutchins 517).

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Riparian rights were affected by a couple of artificial and natural challenges. first there was the question of what constituted a river bed, a section of the riparian zone that would be owned by the state. Secondly, there was the question of defining the rivers banks since the boundary was ever changing due to manmade or natural reasons. Effects such as erosion, accretion, avulsion, subsidence and dereliction resulted in the shifting of boundaries, reducing or increasing the state owned river bed and the private owned riparian land (Powell 7).

In 1840, the state of Texas abolished the Spanish riparian doctrine and embraced the English riparian common law with a few exceptions from the doctrine.

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