Riparian Boundaries are those boundaries that are associated with water. Properties or land parcels bounding on rivers or lakes in the Province of Alberta may have riparian rights associated with the naturally occurring accretion and dereliction of lands along the banks of these water bodies.

In essence, this means that if your title is subject to riparian rights, you are entitled to any naturally occurring accretions to your land. Conversely, if there were any naturally occurring dereliction (erosion of the bank), you would have less land.

On lands under the jurisdiction of the Province of Alberta, only Alberta Land Surveyors are permitted to determine the position of the boundary between the upland title and bed and shore (also referred to as the ‘bank’). The Surveyor may use a variety of measurement tools to arrive at this determination, but in all cases, it must be based on the actual field condition and the principles of boundary law for Alberta.

It should be noted that although Alberta Land Surveyors are charged with this duty, they provide only their opinion as to the position of the bank. This opinion, as with all boundary surveys, is always subject to another surveyor’s opinion and ultimately the Courts opinion.

The basic methods of determining the “bank” of a body of water are:

  • Traverse with offsets at intervals not exceeding 30 meters.
  • Radiation traversing of the Bank at intervals not exceeding 30 meters.
  • GPS traversing of the Bank at intervals not exceeding 30 meters.
  • Photogrammetric determination of the bank in conjunction with field verifications and photo control.
  • A combination of the above as indicated by the individual project and terrain.

Background research into the water body behavior over time, historic title analysis, acquisition of historic aerial photography and investigation of artificial (man-made controls such as dams, weirs, canals, roads, etc.) controls may also be required before the Land Surveyor can finalize his/her opinion as to the boundary in question.

General standards for riparian boundary surveys are documented in the Alberta Land Surveyors Manual of Standard Practice. Other texts such as Survey Law in Canada and Legal Principles and Practice of Land Surveying, can provide insight into this area of Land Surveying.