Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Diffused Surface Water Definition:

Water that is on the surface of land because of rain, melting snow or floods.

In his law book on water law, law professor David Getches wrote;

"Water that is on the surface of land because of rain, melting snow or floods is called diffused surface water....

"(D)iffused surface water usually comes from the runoff of rains or melting snow, and generally flows intermittently without a defined channel. It is not subject to riparian rights until it enters a watercourse."

In Oklahoma Water, Justice McInerney of the Supreme Court of Oklahoma opined:

"Surface waters are those which, in their natural state, occur on the surface of the earth in places other than definite streams or lakes or ponds. They may originate from any source and may be flowing vagrantly over broad lateral areas or, occasionally for brief periods, in natural depressions. The essential characteristics of such waters are that their short-lived flows are diffused over the ground and are not concentrated or confined in channel flows of definite streams, nor are they concentrated or confined in bodies of water conforming to the definition of lakes or ponds.

"The term surface water, traditionally employed by the common law, is somewhat misleading. This is so because all waters appearing on the surface of the earth, be they found in definite streams or elsewhere, are technically surface waters. In more recent times courts and scholars alike have preferred diffused surface water as a more accurate and descriptive expression."

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