Drainage Laws and Organizations

by Dean T. Massey, Univ of Wisconsin, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Planning Now for Irrigation and Drainage in the 21st Century


The legal issues associated with drainage relate to repelling diffused surface water at the boundaries of one's land as well as with disposing of excess water once it has entered upon the land. Three rules apply to the drainage of diffused surface water in states following the riparian doctrine. The civil law rule places a natural easement upon the lower land for the drainage of surface water from the upper land and the common enemy rule recognizes diffused surface water as a common enemy which each landowner may try to control. Under the reasonable use rule, landowners are legally privileged to make reasonable use of their land even though the flow of diffused surface water is altered and causes some harm to others. Only the first two rules apply in appropriation doctrine states; however, they are frequently modified by reasonable use conduct. Legislature in 45 states have authorized the formation of some type of drainage organization as either public or quasi-municipal corporations.

Subject Headings: Drainage | Laws and regulations | Organizations | Surface water | Diffusion | Surface drainage | Legal affairs | Water policy

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