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Available languages — Key:waterway
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Public-images-osm logo.svg waterway
Nau im Langenauer Ried 600x450.jpg
The waterway tag is used to mark rivers or other kind of waterways.
Group: Waterways
Used on these elements
may be used on nodesmay be used on waysshould not be used on areasmay be used on relations
Documented values: 33
Status: de facto

The waterway key is used to describe rivers, streams and boat-yards with a flow of water from one place to another.


See also: Waterways, Relation:waterway

By definition, a waterway is assumed to have a direction of flow. The direction of the way should be downstream (from the waterway's source to its mouth).

For small waterways, a way indicating a direction of flow and its path is sufficient. When a waterway becomes wide enough that mapping the area it flows through is desired, the suggested tagging scheme is natural=water + water=river. (Note: A legacy method of tagging river areas/multipolygons is waterway=riverbank. Both methods are valid, though using the former keeps "areas of water" type features grouped together with a consistent tag set.)

If a waterway way is known to not have water flow year round, it should always be tagged with intermittent=yes. (Non-permanent flow can be further described with the seasonal=* tag to describe when a flow of water exists, but intermittent=yes should still be present in these cases.)

If a waterway is named from its source to its destination, it's strongly suggested that all of its ways be placed in a waterway relation. Doing this allows Nominatim to group the ways together and return exactly one named result per named waterway that exists in OpenStreetMap.

Related water features

Some 'water' related features use other tags, including


Key Value Element Comment Rendering Photo

Natural watercourses

waterway river Way For narrow rivers which will be rendered as a line. For larger rivers see also waterway=riverbank (Other languages).
Nau im Langenauer Ried 600x450.jpg
waterway riverbank Area Used for larger rivers in addition to waterway=river, to define an area between the opposite riverbanks. See water=river for alternative tagging.
waterway stream Way A naturally-formed waterway that is too narrow to be classed as a river. An active, able-bodied person should be able to jump over it if trees along it aren't too thick.
waterway wadi Way A natural, dry (ephemeral) riverbed that contains water only during times of heavy rain or simply an intermittent stream, in semi-arid areas. Also known as a "Wash" in the deserts of America.
It has been recommended to stop using this tag. For intermittent waterways use waterway=river/waterway=stream + intermittent=yes. For valleys natural=valley.
waterway drystream Way Dry stream bed - negative forms of erosion relief formed by the activity of temporary streams.
Don't use this tag. For intermittent waterways use waterway=stream + intermittent=yes. For valleys use natural=valley.

Man made waterways

waterway canal Way An artificial open waterway used for transportation, waterpower, or irrigation.(Other languages).
Grand Union Canal.jpg
waterway drain Way An artificial waterway for carrying storm water or industrial discharge.
Example Drain.jpg
waterway ditch Way A small to moderate depression created to channel water.
Forest ditch.JPG
waterway fairway Way A navigable route in a lake or sea marked by buoys. (Note: conflicts with seamark:type=fairway)


waterway dock Node Area An 'enclosed' area of water used for building or repairing ships.
waterway boatyard NodeArea Boat yard – a place for constructing, repairing and storing vessels out of the water.
Boatyards, Rhyll.jpg

Barriers on waterways

waterway dam Way Area A wall built across a river or stream to impound the water. A dam normally does not have water flowing over the top of it.
Amagase Dam.jpg
waterway weir Node Way A barrier built across a river, sometimes to divert water for industrial purposes. Water can still flow over the top.
Alifakovac Miljacka.jpg
waterway stream_end Node The natural end of a stream (where it seeps into the ground).
waterway waterfall Node A waterfall, use in combination with natural=cliff
Waterfall near Keldur.JPG
waterway lock_gate Node To mark the position of gates at each end of a lock. Alternatively, for smaller locks use a single lock=yes node in the middle of the lock.

Other features on waterways

waterway turning_point Node A place to turn the driving direction for vessels, where the boats are longer than the river/canal is wide. Use maxlength=* to denote the maximum length of the vessel.
waterway water_point Node A place to fill fresh water holding tanks of a boat.
waterway fuel Node Area A place to get fuel for boats.

Some additional attributes for waterways

intermittent yes Way Indicates that the waterway does not have a permanent flow (i.e. is sometimes/often dry).
seasonal yes, spring, summer, autumn, winter, wet_season, dry_season Way Indicates that a waterway has a seasonal (yearly cyclic) flow.
Four seasons.jpg
lock yes Way (Node) A lock is used for moving boats between waterways at two different levels. Can tag either the section of the way between the gates (detailed) or just a single node in the waterway (less detailed).
mooring yes, private, no Way A length of bank where boats are explicitly permitted to moor. maxstay=* should be used for timing information.
Lamanage La Rochelle.jpg
service transportation, water_power, irrigation Way A waterway=canal may have one (or more; separate with semicolons) uses.
tunnel culvert Way (Node) For streams passing under a road in culverts use tunnel=culvert+layer=-1 on the section of stream passing under the road. Don't use either of these tags for streams passing under bridges.
waterway user defined Node Way All commonly used values according to Taginfo
This table is a wiki template with a default description in English. Editable here.