There are acknowledgments of a Public Right to use water prior to 1750. There is no overall or encompassing statute which extinguishes pre existing rights, merely an assumption by some that this has changed due to changing use of the waters of Wales. If private rights have been allocated or sold since, these rights are held subject to the public right. Whilst fishing rights were originally granted for sustenance they are now more commonly used for 'sporting' purposes.
For much of the time, the waters of Wales are enjoyed by a wide range of users, sharing this wonderful natural resource without conflict. However, there are some who believe that they are, or should be, entitled to exclusive access to the water and waterside. This can lead to conflict between different users and/or between users and landowners. Some individuals are keen to point out that 'The Law' states there is no public right of navigation on water England and Wales. In fact there is no statute, overriding or apparent, which supports this assertion.
For example, when Welsh Government supported a restrictive arrangement on the Upper Wye. Environment Agency stated in 2005:
Our support and instigation of access agreements on rivers where rights to navigate may or may not exist does not constitute a comment on whether such rights exist or not. Such agreements are a pragmatic approach to securing recreational opportunities for the public. It is not currently our policy to seek to investigate any such rights on the Upper Wye Of course it is open to individuals or organisations to assert a right they believe they have, and were any such rights to be challenged to seek their confirmation via a legal process. Were any rights to navigate on the Upper Wye be confirmed by the courts, we would of course give due regard to any such judgement.
This is not a reasonable or sustainable way for government to manage public rights in a modern nation.