Tenure Aspects of Water Rights
TENURE RIGHTS AND relationships apply to water as well as to land. However, the terms and concepts used with reference to rights in water are quite different from those used for land. Land tenure terms and concepts developed during the Middle Ages in feudal Europe. By contrast water tenure concepts, except for the relatively unsophisticated riparian doctrine, did not evolve until the movement of settlers into the water deficit areas of the United States. The major difference in land tenure concepts and water tenure concepts is that the latter are largely of legal origin.
Tenure in water, like tenure in land, may be quite complex. This chapter is an attempt to describe the classes of water, to define rights in water, to illustrate how these rights are held and to discuss some of the problems arising in the competition for water.
As the successive waves of settlers moved westward across the North American continent, they carried with them cultural patterns and institutions used in the East. These customs, habits, and practices concerning the use of land and water were applicable in the West as long as the settlers were in a climate belt similar to the one they left behind. However, with each movement westward, changes in topography and ecology required the pioneers to make changes and adaptations of their customs and practices. For example, as the average annual rainfall declined, many practices designed for a more humid climate became inapplicable. Just as the Homestead Act with its provision of 160 acres did not fit the arid conditions of the western states, so the practices concerning water appropriation, holding, and use which served in the East were inadequate in the West.
About the turn of the century it was officially recognized that prob