Clark v. Nash,
198 U.S. 361 (1905)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Clark v. Nash, 198 U.S. 361 (1905)

Clark v. Nash

No. 218

Argued April 19-20, 1905

Decided May 15, 1905

198 U.S. 361


Whether the statute of a state permitting condemnation by an individual for the purpose of obtaining water for his land or for mining, is or is not a condemnation for public use and therefore a valid enactment under the Constitution depends upon considerations relating to the situation of the state and its possibilities for agricultural and mining industries.

The rights of a riparian owner in and to the use of water flowing by his land are not the same in the arid and mountainous western states as they are in the eastern states.

This Court recognizes the difference of climate and soil which render necessary different laws in different sections of the country, and what is a public use largely depends upon the facts surrounding the subject, and with which the people and the courts of the state must be more familiar than a stranger to the soil.

While private property may not in all cases be taken to promote public interest and tend to develop the natural resources of the state, in view of the peculiar conditions existing in the Utah, and as the facts appear in this record, the statute of that state permitting individuals to enlarge the ditch of another and thereby obtain water for his own land is within the legislative power of the state, and does not in any way violate the federal Constitution.

Page 198 U. S. 362

This action was brought by the defendant in error, Nash, to condemn a right of way. so called, by enlarging a ditch for the conveying of water across the land of plaintiffs in error for the purpose of bringing water from Fort Canyon Creek, in the County and State of Utah, which is a stream of water flowing from the mountains near to the land of the defendant in error, and thus to irrigate his land.

The plaintiffs in error demurred to the complaint upon the ground that the same did not state facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action against them. The demurrer was overruled, and the defendants then waived all time in which to answer the complaint, and elected to stand on the demurrer. Thereafter there was a default entered against the defendants, and each of them, for failing to answer, and the case was, under the practice in Utah, then tried and evidence heard on the complaint of the plaintiff, showing the material facts as stated in the complaint. The trial court found the facts as follows:

"That the plaintiff during all the times mentioned in said complaint, to-wit, from the first day of January, 1902, down to the present time, inclusive, was, has been, and now is the owner of, in possession of, and entitled to the possession of the south half of the northwest quarter of section 24, in township 4 south of range 1, east of Salt Lake meridian, in Utah County, State of Utah."

"That Fort Canyon Creek is a natural stream of water flowing from the mountains on the north of plaintiff's said land in a southerly direction to and near to plaintiff's said land."

"That said land of plaintiff above described is arid land, and will not produce without artificial irrigation, but that, with artificial irrigation, the same will produce abundantly of grain, vegetables, fruits, and hay."

"That the defendants own land lying north of and adjacent to plaintiff's said land, and said defendants have constructed and are maintaining and jointly own a water ditch which diverts a portion of the said waters of the said Fort Canyon Creek on the west side of said creek (being the side on which

Page 198 U. S. 363

the plaintiff's said land is situated) at a point about one mile north of plaintiff's said land, in section 13 of said township, down to a point within a hundred feet of plaintiff's said land, which said ditch is begun on the defendants' land and runs in a southerly direction over said defendants' land and onto and over the lands of the said defendants to said point about a hundred feet of plaintiff's said land."

"The plaintiff is the owner of, and entitled to the use of, sufficient of the remainder of the flow of the waters of the said Fort Canyon Creek to irrigate his said land, and that the irrigation of said land by the waters of said creek, and the uses of the said waters in the irrigation of the said lands of the defendant is, under the laws of this state, declared to be, and the same is, a public use."

"That the said waters of said Fort Canyon Creek cannot be brought upon the said plaintiff's said land by any other route except by and through the ditch of the defendants, owing to the canyon through which said ditch runs being such as to only be possible to build one ditch."

"That plaintiff has no other way of irrigating his said land except by the use of the waters of said Fort Canyon Creek, and that, unless plaintiff is allowed to enlarge the ditch of the defendants, and have a right of way through said ditch for the flow of the waters of said Fort Canyon Creek down to the plaintiff's said land, that said land of plaintiff will be valueless and the waters of said Fort Canyon Creek will not be available for any useful purpose."

"That said ditch of defendants is a small ditch, about 18 inches wide and about 12 inches deep; that, if the plaintiff is permitted to widen said ditch one foot more, it will be sufficient in dimensions to carry plaintiff's said water, to which he is entitled, to his said land, and the same can and will be put to a beneficial and public use in the irrigation of the soil on plaintiff's said land hereinbefore described."

"That on the sixteenth day of January, 1902, and while the said defendants were not in the actual use of their said ditch,

Page 198 U. S. 364

and while the widening of said ditch at said time would not in any manner interfere with said defendants, other than the act of widening of same, the plaintiff requested of the said defendants the right to so widen the said ditch of the said defendants so to make it one foot wider for the purpose of using the same to carry the water of the plaintiff on to his said land from said creek, and at said time and place offered to pay to said defendants all damages which the said defendants might suffer by reason of said enlargement, and offered to pay his proportion of the maintenance of keeping the same in repair, and asked of said defendants a right to continue the use of said ditch in common with said defendants, and to use the same so as not to interfere with the use of said ditch by said defendants, and it further appearing to the court that the said plaintiff is now and has ever since been willing to pay said damage and all damage incident thereto, and to pay his just proportion of the cost of maintaining said ditch. That the said defendants then and there and ever since have refused to permit plaintiff to enlarge said ditch or to use the same, or in any manner to interfere with the same."

"And it further appearing to the court that the said defendants would suffer damages by reason of the enlarging of said ditch one foot in width in the sum of $40.00, and no more. And that the said plaintiff has deposited with the clerk of this Court, to be paid to the order of the said defendants, the sum of $40.00 in full payment of such damages. That the land of the defendants not sought to be condemned by plaintiff would suffer no injury or damage."

"And it further appearing from said evidence that said ditch of the defendants can be widened by the plaintiff one foot more without injury to defendants or to said ditch, and that said widening of said ditch and the use thereof by the plaintiff will not in any manner interfere with the free and full use thereof by the defendants for the carrying of all waters of the said defendants."

Upon these facts, the court found the following:

Page 198 U. S. 365

"Conclusions of Law"

"The court finds and decides that the plaintiff is entitled to a decree of this court condemning a right of way through defendants' said ditch, to the extent of widening said ditch one foot more than its present width, and to a depth of said ditch as now constructed through the entire length thereof down to plaintiff's said land, for the purpose of carrying his said waters of said Fort Canyon Creek to the land of the plaintiff for the purpose of irrigation, and is entitled to an easement therein to the extent of the enlarging of said ditch, and for the purposes aforesaid, and to have a perpetual right of way to flow waters therein to the extent of the said enlargement."

"That the defendants are entitled to have and recover from the said plaintiff the sum of $40.00 damages for injury sustained by reason of the enlargement and improvement above stated and such right of way and easement."

"That the plaintiff is required to contribute to the cost and expense of maintaining and keeping the said ditch in repair in an amount and proportion bearing the same relation to the whole amount of cost and expense as the waters he flows therein bears to the whole amount flowed therein both by the plaintiff and defendants."

"That the plaintiff recover no costs herein, and judgment is hereby ordered to be entered accordingly."

Judgment having been entered upon these findings, the defendants appealed to the supreme court of the state, where, after argument, the judgment was affirmed. 27 Utah 158.

Page 198 U. S. 367

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