Yunker v. Nichols

Citation1 Colo. 551
Case DateFebruary 01, 1872
CourtSupreme Court of Colorado

1 Colo. 551

YUNKER
v.
NICHOLS.

Supreme Court of Colorado

February, 1872


[1 Colo. 552]

Error to District Court, Arapahoe County.

YUNKER brought an action of trespass on the case against Nichols, for diverting water from an irrigating ditch leading from Bear Creek to the plaintiff's farm. It appeared that the ditch was constructed in the spring of the year 1871, by the plaintiff, the defendant and one John Bell, under an agreement that they would share equally in the water conveyed thereby, such water to be used in irrigating the lands of the several parties respectively. After the ditch had been constructed to and across the defendant's land, so as to communicate and supply water to plaintiff's land, the defendant diverted the water from the ditch and caused the same to flow upon his own land, so that none passed down to the plaintiff, whose lands were below those of the defendant, by means whereof the plaintiff's growing crop was greatly injured and diminished in value. It did not appear that there was any memorandum in writing of the agreement in respect to the ditch between the plaintiff, the defendant and Bell. The court instructed the jury that, if the plaintiff's right to have water flow over the lands of the defendant was conferred by verbal agreement of the plaintiff, the defendant and a third person, which agreement was never reduced to writing, that the plaintiff could not recover. The jury found for the defendant.

Mr. H. R. HUNT, for plaintiff in error.

Messrs. BROWNE & PUTNAM, for defendant in error.

Separate opinions were filed by the members of the court.

HALLETT, C. J.

In England, and in this country, it is considered that the right of one person to conduct water over the land of another is an interest in real estate, which must be conveyed by deed in compliance with the terms of the statute of frauds. In countries where the humidity of the climate is sufficient to supply moisture to plants, there can be no reason for distinguishing this from other easements [1 Colo. 553] in the soil, and therefore the law of England, and of most of our States on this point will be found in the general rules relating to real property.

The principles of the law are undoubtedly of universal application, but some latitude of construction must be allowed to meet the various conditions of life in different countries. The principles of the decalogue may be applied to the conduct of men in every country and claim, but rules respecting the tenure of property must yield to the physical laws of nature, whenever such laws exert a controlling influence.

In a dry and thirsty land it is necessary to divert the waters of streams from their natural channels, in order to obtain the fruits of the soil, and this necessity is so universal and imperious that it claims recognition of the law. The value and usefulness of agricultural lands, in this territory, depend upon the supply of water for irrigation, and this can only be obtained by constructing artificial channels through which it may flow over adjacent lands. These artificial channels are often of great length, and rarely within the lands of a single proprietor. A riparian owner must usually get his supply of water from some point on the stream above his own land, and he is compelled to enter upon the lands of others in order to obtain it. Irrigating ditches cannot be made available at or near the head or point of divergence from the stream, and, while a riparian owner may be able to construct a ditch upon his own territory which shall overflow a portion of his land, he can never make it serviceable to the entire tract. Of course, lands situated at a distance from a stream cannot be irrigated without passing over intermediate lands, and thus all tilled lands, wherever situated, are subject to the same necessity. In other lands, where the rain falls upon the just and the unjust, this necessity is unknown, and is not recognized by the law. But here the law has made provision for this necessity, by withholding from the land-owner the absolute dominion of his estate, which would enable him to deny the right of others to enter upon it for the purpose of obtaining [1 Colo. 554] needed supplies of water. It was enacted by the first legislative assembly, that persons owning claims on the bank, margin or neighborhood of any stream, should have the right of way over adjacent lands for purposes of irrigation (Laws 1861, p. 67), and this law is still of force. (Rev. Stat. 363.) So, also, the common law recognizes an easement in certain cases, and will imply a grant of such easement where it is especially necessary to the enjoyment of the dominant estate. Phear on Rights of Water, 71.

If one having a close, surrounded with his own land, grants the close to another in fee for life or years, the grantee shall have a way to the close over the grantor's land as incident to the grant, for, without it, he cannot derive any benefit from the grant. So it is, also, where he grants the land and reserves the close to himself. 1 Wm. Saund. 323, note 6; Pennington v. Galland, 9 Ex. 9; Snyder v. Warford, 11 Mo. 513.

And if one erect a house and build a conduit thereto in another part of his land, and convey water by pipes to the house, and, afterward, sell the house with the appurtenances, excepting the land, or sell the land to another, reserving to himself the house, the conduit and pipes pass with the house, because it is necessary and quasi appendant thereto. Phear on Rights of Water, 72; Pheysey v. Vicary, 16 M. & W. 484; Ryer v. Carter, 1 H. & N. 916. In these cases, it is true, the dominant and servient estates were derived from a common source, but in this they are analogous to the case at bar. All the lands in this territory which are now held by individuals were derived from the general government, and it is fair to presume that the government intended to convey to the citizens the necessary means to make them fruitful.

'Into all contracts, whether made between States and individuals or between individuals only, there enter conditions which arise not out of the literal terms of the contract itself. They are superinduced by the pre-existing and higher authority of the laws of nature, of nations, or of the community to which the parties belong. They are [1 Colo. 555] always presumed, and must be presumed, to be known and recognized by all, are binding upon all, and need never, therefore, be carried into express stipulation, for this could add nothing to their force.' West River Bridge Co. v. Dix, 6 How. 532.

When the lands of this territory were derived from the general government, they were subject to the law of nature, which holds them barren until awakened to fertility by nourishing streams of water, and the purchasers could have no benefit from the grant without the right to irrigate them. It may be said, that all lands are held in subordination to the dominant right of others, who must necessarily pass over them to obtain a supply of water to irrigate their own lands, and this servitude arises, not by grant, but by operation of law.

In this case there was evidence tending to prove that defendant consented to the construction of the ditch, which, with the aid of the law, was sufficient to maintain the action. If defendant had refused his consent, the statute prescribed the method of proceeding to perfect plaintiff's right. But, in any event, it was not necessary that defendant should convey to plaintiff the right of way for the ditch, and therefore the charge to the jury was erroneous.

I think that the judgment should be reversed, and that a new trial should be awarded.

BELFORD, J.

Yunker sued Nichols in the court below, in an action on the case to recover damages for cutting a certain ditch which had theretofore been constructed on Nichols' land, and for diverting the water there from. The declaration contains three counts. It is averred that Yunker, at the commencement of this action, and for a long time anterior thereto, was the owner of a certain tract of land lying from one to two miles distant from a certain stream known as Bear Creek. It is further averred that plaintiff had no facilities on said land for irrigating purposes. It is further alleged that the defendant and one John Bell, John McBroom and Peter Olsen, respectively, claimed certain [1 Colo. 556] tracts of land lying between the land of the plaintiff and the stream above mentioned. That, on the first day of March, 1871, the plaintiff and the said defendant and Bell, not having water facilities on their lands for the purpose of irrigation, built and constructed a dam in said stream of water, adjacent to the land of McBroom, and procured from McBroom and Olsen the right of way across their land, and dug and constructed a certain ditch, and conducted water therein from the dam to the respective lands of Bell and Nichols and the said plaintiff, for the purpose of using the same in irrigating and making said lands available for agricultural purposes. That, by mutual agreement, the water running through the ditch was to be used share and share alike by the parties, each of the parties having the right to divert from said ditch on to their respective tracts one-third of the water. It is further alleged that, notwithstanding this agreement, and after the ditch was constructed and the water let in, the defendant wrongfully and unjustly intending to injure the plaintiff and deprive him of the use of the water not only diverted a larger quantity of it than he was entitled to, but prevented any portion of it from reaching plaintiff's land and prevented the plaintiff from using the ditch, wherefore great damage had accrued, etc. The defendant filed the general denial. The cause was submitted to the jury for trial, who returned a verdict for the defendant. There was no evidence introduced on the part of the defendant, and that of the plaintiff fully sustained the...

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46 practice notes
  • U.S. v. City and County of Denver, By and Through Bd. of Water Com'rs, Nos. 79SA99
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • November 29, 1982
    ...environment. See, e.g., Coffin v. Left Hand Ditch Co., 6 Colo. 443 (1882); Schilling v. Rominger, 4 Colo. 100 (1872); Yunker v. Nichols, 1 Colo. 551 The appropriation doctrine arose from the customary uses of the early settlers--most notably miners--of the Colorado Territory. See Broder v. ......
  • State Et Rel. State Game Comm'n v. Red River Valley Co., No. 4847
    • United States
    • New Mexico Supreme Court of New Mexico
    • June 18, 1947
    ...in Colorado as elsewhere. Necessity does not furnish a basis for the right of public fishery upon which, it is said in Yunker v. Nichols, 1 Colo. 551, rests the dominant right of one landowner in this state to build182 P.2d 447a conduit over the lands of another in order to get water from t......
  • BOARD OF COUNTY COM'RS v. Park County, No. 01SA56.
    • United States
    • April 8, 2002
    ...of private property must yield to the physical laws of nature, whenever such laws exert a controlling influence." Yunker v. Nichols, 1 Colo. 551, 553 (1872) (Hallett, When the lands of this territory were derived from the general government, they were subject to the law of nature, which hol......
  • Public Utilities Commission of State of Idaho v. Natatorium Co.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Idaho
    • November 6, 1922
    ...to use such waters can only be acquired by application to a beneficial use. (Mills Irr. Manual, secs. 5, 21-25, inc.; Yunker v. Nichols, 1 Colo. 551; Coffin v. Left Hand Ditch Co., 6 Colo. 443.) Idaho follows the Colorado system. (Mills Irr. Manual, sec. 25; Drake v. Earhart, 2 Idaho 750, 2......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
46 cases
  • U.S. v. City and County of Denver, By and Through Bd. of Water Com'rs, Nos. 79SA99
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • November 29, 1982
    ...environment. See, e.g., Coffin v. Left Hand Ditch Co., 6 Colo. 443 (1882); Schilling v. Rominger, 4 Colo. 100 (1872); Yunker v. Nichols, 1 Colo. 551 The appropriation doctrine arose from the customary uses of the early settlers--most notably miners--of the Colorado Territory. See Broder v. ......
  • State Et Rel. State Game Comm'n v. Red River Valley Co., No. 4847
    • United States
    • New Mexico Supreme Court of New Mexico
    • June 18, 1947
    ...in Colorado as elsewhere. Necessity does not furnish a basis for the right of public fishery upon which, it is said in Yunker v. Nichols, 1 Colo. 551, rests the dominant right of one landowner in this state to build182 P.2d 447a conduit over the lands of another in order to get water from t......
  • BOARD OF COUNTY COM'RS v. Park County, No. 01SA56.
    • United States
    • April 8, 2002
    ...of private property must yield to the physical laws of nature, whenever such laws exert a controlling influence." Yunker v. Nichols, 1 Colo. 551, 553 (1872) (Hallett, When the lands of this territory were derived from the general government, they were subject to the law of nature, whic......
  • Public Utilities Commission of State of Idaho v. Natatorium Co.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Idaho
    • November 6, 1922
    ...to use such waters can only be acquired by application to a beneficial use. (Mills Irr. Manual, secs. 5, 21-25, inc.; Yunker v. Nichols, 1 Colo. 551; Coffin v. Left Hand Ditch Co., 6 Colo. 443.) Idaho follows the Colorado system. (Mills Irr. Manual, sec. 25; Drake v. Earhart, 2 Idaho 750, 2......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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