An Engineer Looks at Drainage Law

by Alfred R. Pagan, (F.ASCE), Engr.; Westwood, NJ,

Serial Information: Engineering Issues: Journal of Professional Activities, 1972, Vol. 98, Issue 4, Pg. 535-541

Document Type: Journal Paper


Two points are made: The law with regard to the disposal of surface flood waters is changing. States which purport to follow either the common enemy doctrine (an upland owner can dispose of water in any way he pleases), or the civil law doctrine (an upland owner can do little or nothing which adversely affects the downstream properties) in fact adhere to neither. A compromise between the two is evolving and has evolved in some jurisdictions, which effectively utilizes the reasonable use doctrine. It says each case must be dealt with separately, but that the question or whether or not what was done is reasonable determines the adjudication of a case. Because the question of reasonableness can only be decided by the courts, engineers are subject and increasingly vulnerable to law suits when their designs are questioned.

Subject Headings: Drainage | Laws | Water policy | Owners | Floods | Surface water | Water surface | Rivers and streams

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