Prior Appropriation

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  • In analyzing the doctrine of prior appropriation, one must understand that the doctrine's application varies throughout the fifty states. Topography, population, and the laws affecting the lack of water and its use encompassed considerations in the West; the relative abundance of water allowed for less harsh legislation in the East. The use of water and evolution of conflicts regarding water rights are a function of the growing native and transplanted population, the rise of manufacturing and other business sectors, and the future potential of obtaining water from the United States’ northern neighbor, Canada.

    As the American West developed, the lack of arable land, competing agricultural interests, and different forms of animal husbandry made fencing inadequate throughout many regions. Violence became endemic, and the courts were called ...

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