Senate Bill No. 650
(By Senators Prezioso, Unger, Edgell, Ross, Rowe,
Sharpe and Weeks)
[Originating in the Committee on Health and Human Resources;
reported February 25, 2003.]
A BILL to amend and reenact chapter twenty of the code of West
Virginia, one thousand nine hundred thirty-one, as amended, by
adding thereto a new article, designated article fifteen,
relating to management of water resources of the state.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That chapter twenty of the code of West Virginia, one thousand
nine hundred thirty-one, as amended, be amended by adding thereto
a new article, designated article fifteen, to read as follows:
ARTICLE 15. WATER RESOURCES OF THE STATE.
§20-15-1. Legislative findings and purpose.
The West Virginia Legislature finds that:
(a) It is the public policy of the state of West Virginia to
protect and conserve the water resources of the state so as to
provide for the public welfare of its citizens. The state's water
resources are a vital natural resource of the state that are essential to maintain, preserve and promote the quality of life and
economic vitality of the state.
(b) It is the public policy of the state that the waters of
the state be available for reasonable use by all of the citizens of
West Virginia, consistent with the evolving common law doctrine of
reasonable use and the interests of the citizens of the state of
As used in this article:
(a) "Water resources" means any and all water, on or beneath
the surface of the ground, whether percolating, standing, diffused,
or flowing, and shall include, without limiting the generality of
the foregoing, natural or artificial lakes, rivers, streams,
creeks, branches, brooks, ponds, impounding reservoirs, springs,
wells, watercourses and wetlands
(b) "Watercourse" means the course, bed and banks of any
perennial or intermittent natural river, stream, creek, run, brook,
lake or pond, including the extent to which such watercourses are
artificially altered by man or wetlands within the direct path of
§20-15-3. Management of water resources of the state.
ll water resources, wholly or partially, within this
state or bordering this state and within its jurisdiction
have not been conveyed by deed, grant or patent to private ownership or which are not subject to any existing riparian or
mineral right, interest or control are declared to be waters of the
state of West Virginia and are held by the state in stewardship for
the use, benefit and enjoyment of all citizens of the state:
Provided, That the waters of farm ponds, industrial settling basins
and ponds and waste treatment facilities
are excluded from the
waters of the state
(b) As steward for these waters, the state has the power to
protect and preserve them to the same extent and by the same means
as the holder of any riparian or mineral interest would have at law
or in equity.
(c) The state also holds the waters of the state for public
uses and purposes, including, but not limited to, the purposes and
uses of navigation, fisheries, commerce, utilities, recreation and
ecological protection, and the state shall manage and control these
waters and watercourses on behalf of the people of the state in
such manner as is reasonably necessary to maintain and protect
these uses and serve these purposes.
(d) The state has a public interest in assuring that the
waters of the state are available to support existing and future
beneficial uses including, but not limited to, commerce, industry,
agriculture and recreational purposes.