Interrelationsh ps Among' natural Water Sources
It is well known to scientists that there are interrelationships among
the different natural water sources, including streams and groundwaters. In
North Carolina as well as several other States, however, different legal
principles have been applied to different types of water sources. We will at
this point consider the extent to which rights in a particular source of
water may extend to other natural sources of water which may be physically
related to it.
;i -. In Rouse v. City of Kinston (1924), discussed earlier under Groundwaters,
the Supreme Court approved the lower Court's ruling to the effect that the
American rule of reasonable use applies to artesian and other percolating
groundwaters, and that this rule does not permit the withdrawal of such waters
for distribution or sale, for uses not connected with any beneficial owner-
ship or enjoyment of the land from which they are taken, if it thereby follows
that the owner of adjacent land has his "wells, springs or streams" there-
by materially diminished in.flow. VJ1/ There apparently was no evidence in the
case that any springs or 'streams were diminished in flow by reason of the
withdrawal of underground artesian waters. But the Court thus implied that
there might be liability for such interference, perhaps with respect to sur-
face as well as underground streams. 52/ This rule might well apply to cutting
off or reducing. the flow of:a spring which arises on adjoining or perhaps more
distant lands. But the extent to which each riparian owner along a surface
)i/ Rouse v. City of.Kinston, 188 N.C. 1, 123 S.E. 482, 493 (1924).
/ The Court, on pp. 490-i91, of 123 S.E. 482, quoted a California case
which in turn cited a New York case to the effect that even though "there
'was no visible stream or pond" on one's land and "his injury was merely that
the 3evel of the water held in the soil was'lowered," 'he could recover
damages for the withdrawal of percolating ground waters and use by a distant
city. This would appear to imply that there would be liability for there-
by diminishing the flow of a surface watercourse.
watercourse or overlying a definite underground stream might be able to sue
for such diminution of its' flow may be more problematical.
In any event, under the rule of reasonable use there apparently would
ordinarily be no liability for such interference if the percolating waters
withdrawn are used solely for beneficial uses on one's overlying lands (al-
though criteria for determining such lands have not been clearly defined).
"The extent to which such interference might result in liability under the
correlative rights doctrine,'which might possibly be applied to such use,
particularly as to the withdrawal of waters in an artesian basin, is problem-
atical.. (See Groundwaters, ante.)
Certain questions regarding the interrelationships between definite
Underground streams and percolating grunidwaters or other water sources
have been already discussed, under Definite Underground Streams, ante,
Some cases involving the question of liability for pollution have tended 4
indicate that there might be liability for polluting other sources of water
physically related to the source into which the pollution is discharged. (See
Pollution, ante.) In one case the Court held it was proper to enjoin the
discharge of sewage into a dry ditch along which it naturally ran into a small
Stream which ran "by a spring" on the complainant's lando. The use of the
stream and spring had to be abandoned. The spring apparently emerged from
groundwaters nearby, although it may have emptied into the small stream
and presumably was polluted above ground* i3./
/ Rhyne v. Flint Mfg. Co., 182 N.c. i489, 109 S.E. 376 (192x).
In another case liability was imposed for draining off waters in a swamp
which thereby diminished the* flow of water to a mill located on a stream
which led from it., It was argued that the waters drained.off were "surface
Sweaters" for which noi liability should result. The Court didn't clearly
decide this question but- it appears 'to have regarded the waters drained off
as, being part of the natural water~ ai e which' led from the swamp. (See
Flood Waters,' and ,Surface Waters, an t~) 'Williamson v. Locks Creek Canal Co.
78 N.C. 156 (1878)j other decisions in 76 N.C. 478 and 84 N.C. 629.