Wyoming v. Colorado
298 U.S. 573 (1936)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Wyoming v. Colorado, 298 U.S. 573 (1936)

Wyoming v. Colorado

No. 10, original

Argued February 11, 12, 1936

Decided June 1, 1936

298 U.S. 573

Syllabus

1. Under the decree of this Court in Wyoming v. Colorado,259 U. S. 419; 260 U. S. 260 U.S. 1, the claims of Colorado therein recognized and confirmed are the only ones in virtue of which diversion of water may lawfully be made in Colorado from the Laramie River and its tributaries, as against Wyoming and her appropriators. P. 298 U. S. 579.

2. The decree in the former suit ( 260 U. S. 260 U.S. 1) recognized and confirmed an appropriation "enabling the Colorado, or anyone recognized by her as duly entitled thereto," to divert and take from the headwaters of Deadman Creek, a tributary of the Laramie,

"the relatively small amount of water appropriated therefrom prior to the year 1902 by and through what is designated in the evidence as the Wilson Supply Ditch."

The record in that suit shows that the appropriation is of 2,000 acre-feet per annum. Held:

(1) That the decree is to be taken as though the amount, 2,000 acre-feet, were written into it. P. 298 U. S. 580.

(2) Wyoming is bound by the former finding and adjudication. Id.

(3) The evidence in the present case shows that diversions from the headwaters of Deadman Creek through the Wilson Supply Ditch have not exceeded 2,000 acre-feet per annum. Id.

3. The former decree, in confirming the right of Colorado "to divert and take" from the Laramie River and its tributaries a stated number of acre-feet of water per annum in virtue of certain meadow land appropriations, refers to the water taken from the stream at point of diversion, and was violated by diverting and applying to the meadows much larger quantities under the claim that the greater part would return to the stream through surface drainage and percolation and that the amount actually consumed would not exceed the amount fixed in the decree. P. 298 U. S. 581.

4. In both Colorado and Wyoming, water rights acquired by appropriation are transferable, in whole or in part, either permanently or temporarily, and the use of the water may be changed from the irrigation of one tract to the irrigation of another if the change does not injure other appropriators. The rules in this

Page 298 U. S. 574

regard are but incidental to the doctrine of appropriation, which prevails in both States. P. 298 U. S. 584.

5. It was not the purpose of the earlier suit between Wyoming and Colorado, or of the decree therein, to withdraw the water claim confirmed by the decree from the operation of local laws relating to their transfer, or to restrict their utilization in ways not affecting the rights of one State and her claimants as against the other State and her claimants. P. 298 U. S. 584.

6. The decree in the earlier suit confirmed the right of the State of Colorado, or of anyone recognized by her as duly entitled thereto, to divert and take in Colorado from the Laramie River and tributaries the water included in designated appropriations for use in another watershed. By agreement of the owners and with the consent of Colorado, part of the water accredited by the decree to some of these appropriations was diverted and conveyed by the ditch appertaining to another of them, in addition to its own proper supply; but all the ditches together diverted and took no more than the aggregate of their several appropriations as severally confirmed by the decree. Held that the decree was not violated. P. 298 U. S. 582-585.

7. Wyoming is granted leave to apply later on for an appropriate order respecting the measurement and recording of all diversions in Colorado of water from the Laramie and its tributaries if the two States cannot agree and there is need for action by this Court. Jurisdiction is retained accordingly. P. 298 U. S. 585.

On final hearing of a suit brought in this Court by Wyoming charging Colorado and her water claimants with departures from the decree by which this Court, in an earlier suit, adjudicated the relative rights of the two States and their respective citizens to use the waters of the Laramie River and its tributaries. See259 U. S. 259 U.S. 419. An earlier phase of the present case was reported in 286 U. S. 286 U.S. 494. By the decision now reported, the prayer of Wyoming for injunctive relief is granted in part and in part denied. Jurisdiction is retained in part, as indicated in the concluding paragraph of the syllabus.

Page 298 U. S. 575

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