It is no simple task to determine who owns-or rather who does not own-the water in North Carolina's lakes, streams, and ponds. Those seeking to resolve conflicts involving water use invariably risk entanglement in a web of common law riparian rights and public trust assets loosely bound together by centuries-old court decisions and complex state and federal laws. The question of who owns water, particularly with regard to local governments, is clearly an area of increasing importance as North Carolina now sees an end to what once seemed its inexhaustible water bounty.
Daniel F. McLawhorn, Where Will You Go When the Well Runs Dry? Local Government Ownership and Water Allocation in North Carolina, 32 Campbell L. Rev. 51 (2009).