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Public-images-osm logo.svg waterway
River Scarpe waterway location.jpg
used for waterways to build a unique object for each river Edit or translate this description.
Group: Waterways

  • way - (blank)
  • way - main_stream
  • way - side_stream
  • node - spring
Status: approvedPage for proposal


The purpose of waterway relations is to have an object for each river. Common tags like references, wikipedia pages, and international names only need to be added once. However each segment should still have a tag name=* with the main name to describe the most common local name for each section.


Key Value Description
type waterway
waterway [river, stream, canal, drain, ditch] Subtype of the waterway relation similar to waterway=*
Hint: If the waterway starts as a stream and becomes larger, then use the tag of the largest waterway (e.g. river). This is purely informational, the stream members still need their own waterway=* tag.
name * Name of the waterway
The international name tags name:en=*, name:de=*, ... are recommended for large waterways. When a river gets multiple names (f.e. because it passes in multiple language regions), use all different names in the name tag, ordered from source to mouth, and split by hyphens. The individual sections can still get their localised name for that section.
destination * (optional) Name of the river, sea or ocean which this waterway flows into.
ref * (optional) Any kind of reference or use the specialized tags below. (See discussion for more alternatives)
ref:sandre * (optional) In France you can add the Sandre reference: see French waterways wikiprojet for explanations. Sandre official Website or fr.wikipedia
ref:fgkz * (optional) In Germany you can add the  FGKZ reference
ref:regine * (optional) In Norway you can add the  regine reference
ref:gnis * (optional) In USA you can add the  gnis reference
ref:gnbc * (optional) In Canada you can add the  gnbc reference
ref:gwlnr * (optional) In Switzerland you can add the  gwlnr reference
wikipedia * (optional) Links to wikipedia pages
wikidata * (optional) ID Qxxxx of the waterway in Wikidata
length * (optional) Total length of the waterway in km (lacks verifiability)


Object type Role Recurrence Description
way None or
One or more Any kind of waterway ways. They usually have a waterway=[river, canal, stream, drain, ditch] tag.
way side_stream Zero or more waterway=river, waterway=canal, waterway=stream... a branch of main stream that returns to it.
node spring Optional natural=spring The spring of the river.
relation tributary Zero or more De-facto, has advantages and disadvantages
The waterway relations of tributary waterways (i.e. ones whose destination=* are set to the name of the parent).
area riverbank or
Zero or more Not approved, not frequently used and controversial - see Talk:Relation:waterway
The waterbody (area) of the river.

See also

Related pages


displays rivers in wikipedia maps
Scanner for waterway relations
“OSM Waterway analyses”. 
Statistic for waterway related relations
“OSM Relation Hierarchy: planet_waterways”. 
Overpass Turbo query to display the tributaries of a given river