State Water Rights Laws

by William R. Walker, (M.ASCE), Dir.; Water Resour. Res. Ctr., Virginia Polytechnic Inst. and State Univ., Blacksburg, VA,

Serial Information: Journal of the Irrigation and Drainage Division, 1973, Vol. 99, Issue 4, Pg. 449-456

Document Type: Journal Paper


The proposed statement of water law principles makes a valuable contribution by promoting the formulation of comprehensive state water policy, but the statement suggests the universal adoption of the doctrine of appropriation without giving adequate consideration to the impact of this action. One of the principal characteristics of the appropriation doctrine is the emphasis placed on diversion and economic use of water. Although economic use of water is important, over-emphasis in this area is detrimental to the rights of the public regarding instream uses such as recreation, esthetics, fish and wildlife, and water quality control. The recommendation that the principle of first in time—first in right also poses difficulties, especially if it is used to establish priorities among applicants for water rights. A related issue concerns the appropriative practice of granting water rights in perpetuity. The public interest might be better served if rights were assigned for a number of years.

Subject Headings: Water-based recreation | Water quality | Water rights | Laws | Economic factors | Water use | Spillways | Aesthetics

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