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Public-images-osm logo.svg water = river
Volga Ulyanovsk-oliv.jpg
The water covered area of a river Edit or translate this description.
Group: Rivers
Used on these elements
should not be used on nodesshould not be used on waysmay be used on areasshould not be used on relations
See also
Status: approvedPage for proposal


The water covered area of a river, used with natural=water. Should contain a waterway=river way inside.

How to map

Draw the outline area of the river and add natural=water + water=river.

For long rivers, the area should be split into several segments of manageable size (Area 1 and Area 2 in the image below).

In addition, a way way tagged as waterway=river, must be drawn in the direction of the river flow (way 4 in image). All tags of the river (like name=* and other supplemental tags) should go to this center line.

More information on river area mapping can be found under waterway=riverbank.


To map islands in a river you can use a multipolygon relation and the island and the main riverbank should be included in the relation. The main riverbank way (way 1 in image) will have the role 'outer' and the way for the island (way 2 in image) will have the role 'inner'.

Illustration of the several involved ways in river mapping

Areas intermittently covered by water


These areas can be flooded during high water level and are covered by plants when the water level is low. Tag such areas as natural=wetland + wetland=marsh;swamp;reedbed. Do not double tag or overlay with duplicate area of water=river or natural=water as the definition of wetland indicates occasional cover with river water. USGS image cropped.jpg

Areas without vegetation

Some areas of river do not support growth of plants, but the surface of the riverbed can become exposed during low water levels. Some people tag these with surface=* e.g.surface=mud;gravel;rock in combination with natural=water + water=river + intermittent=yes. (Similar to tagging of natural=shoal or wetland=tidalflat)

In addition, there are past proposals with smaller count of uses: Proposed features/Water cover, Proposed features/waterway=riverbed

Tagged objects distribution



The area of the river is tagged with waterway=riverbank alone - that tagging is significantly less common

See also