Title: Irrigation Water Companies and Irrigation Districts
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/WL00003105/00001
 Material Information
Title: Irrigation Water Companies and Irrigation Districts
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Publisher: President's Water Resources Policy Commission
Spatial Coverage: North America -- United States of America -- Florida
Abstract: Richard Hamann's Collection - Irrigation Water Companies and Irrigation Districts
General Note: Box 12, Folder 9 ( Water Resources Law - Vol #3 - 1950 ), Item 23
Funding: Digitized by the Legal Technology Institute in the Levin College of Law at the University of Florida.
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Bibliographic ID: WL00003105
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Levin College of Law, University of Florida
Holding Location: Levin College of Law, University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

Full Text

INTERSTATE RIVERz.-Many important rivers or their tribu-
taries originate in the highlands of one state to pursue a course
through others. As we later point out, there is a growing
awareness of the multiple benefits to be derived from basin-
wide development of river systems and their watersheds under
comprehensive plans."' In the process of comprehensive de-
velopment, particular projects are of especial concern to the
people within their immediate area.
In the case of irrigation projects, the availability of suitable
land, characteristics of local economy, lesser financial outlay
required for diversion works, and other factors sometimes pro-
mote downstream development before projects are initiated for
use of waters upstream. On the other hand, opportunities for
diversion first occur in upstream areas.
Just as in the case of individual water users on a stream,
questions have arisen between states in regard to their respec-
tive rights in waters of interstate rivers. Despite the differ-
ences in basic systems of state water law, some of which we have
already noted, the relative rights of states litigating a water
controversy do not depend upon their respective systems of
law." On the contrary, in settling interstate water contro-
versies, the Supreme Court has applied the principles of equi-
table apportionment, a doctrine which resolves the controversy
on the basis of the equality of rights without adherence to any
particular formula."
Use of water for irrigation is vitally affected by determina-
tion of such interstate water controversies. As we have al-
ready pointed out, such controversies may be settled by
original suits brought in the United States Supreme Court, or
by interstate compacts."

Irrigation Water Companies and Irrigation Districts
Outstanding among organizations for group irrigation de-
velopment are irrigation water companies and irrigation
"See Chapter 9, Comprehensive Development, infra, pp. 383-491.
Connectiout v. Massachusetts, 282 U. S. 660,670 (1931).
See supra, pp. 58-64.
See supra, pp. 64-70.

districts.: Because of their relatiotehip to federal irrigation
undertakings, we shall suminarizea ere the characteristics of
:As the opportunities for simpler :irrigation developments
were exhausted, attention was turned to undertakings mbre re-
mote from streams. Necessarily, these were more complex and
involved larger construction costs. iAn answer was found in
irrigation companies, combining capital and labor to achieve
greater results. And with the gibwth, of the appropriation
doctrine, the number of such companies increased.
Kinney reported fii 1912 that-'te results of such private
companies and corpodftions far exceeded the results of all other
irrigation enterprises." `These private organizations may be
divided into two groups, the crpotri iibri gani eid to supply
water totlie'general public for compensation, and the muitihal
irrigation or ditci company, organized by irrigators to supply
themselves.' They are thus quasi-public, or in the iatire of
mutual comdpariem restricting service to their owhn ~o ~-
holders." A con6mn6m type was the joint-stock codipany~.'
"Such companies ound a use under the amended Desert an
Act of 1894, common called* te Caey Act. Approval of
an application by a state for designation of desert lands foi a
Carey-Act project is followed by contract between the state
and a construction or irrigation .company for construction
and operation of the irrigation works." Setlers then usually

Kinney, InaIATioN AmO WAEAmn Rit 1450, pp. 2611i-2 3 (2d ed.
* Long L, A. TBIATIS ON T O LAw oR IBMATJDIOiN,, j 279, 280, pp. 48-486
(2d ed. 1916).
M Teele, BBIERATIoN IN THE UNiTED STATEs, p. 191 (1915).
S*ct tAnpget,-18tS1 4, 28 '1 ist. 872, 424, 4 as4 Aim ed;, 4i3 Sti.
641 et seq. See in particular the Act of June 11, 1896, 1, 29 Stat. 413, 434,
43 U. S. 0. 642. Under this amendment, wealthy individuals and corpora-
tions might be given a lien upon the lands for the money advanced by
them forthe construction of works. See 3 Kinney, IRRIGATION AND WATER
RIrHTs, 1 1323, p. 2397 (2d ed. 1912).
SSee, e. g., Port~euf-Mqrskl VaUey Canal Co. v. Brown, 274 U. S. 630,
632 (1927); REV. CODE OF MOrT., 1947 ANN. 81-2101-81-2104; Wro.
COMP. STT. 1945, Ig 24-406-24-417..

acquireAtheiriwater rights by contract with-such compadiy.
:It became apparent as early as 1915 that the joint-stock
comaies were not wellsuited foi construction of large projects
since they were without substantial amounts of capital." And
the trend has been generally away from commercial irrigation
enterprises' There are, however, many mutual companies
or associations still functioning, particularly in certain areas.'
An outstanding feature of these organizations is their volun-
tary character. In practice, landowners generally make mutual
stock-subscription contracts subjecting them to assessments
which become liens both upon the shares of stock and the water
rights represented thereby to meet the authorized costs of the
companyY01 ;A form of mutual company ,the "water users'
association," was an early conttracting entity in operations
under the Reclamation Law.10
But the success of an irrigation undertaking is often depend-
ent upon participation by all of the lands situated so as: t
utilize 'waters from the development. In such a volun6 ry
operation, therefore, an willing minority naythwart, the
development. This organizational limitation is overcome
whee the irrigation district is the medium for group develop-
ment.10' ..
S" ee,;eij Ey, COD or MoNr., 1947 ANN. $ 81-2106; WrOM Ob(A. 8CtA
1945, 24-418.
*"(TeleXIGrAWIp A THE UNaMZ STATse p. 194 (1915).
:STATnsriTc. ABsTRAc* o THE UNITB SrTATE, Department of Comn-
gr.ee, Bureau 9 the Ceas wTable No. 656, p. 59 (1949).
"See ibid. As, an example ot a particular area, Utah has about 700
.private and. mutual companies or associations having over 8,780 miles of
earth canals, 410 pumping plants; l,9T8 diversion dams, and extensive stor-
age works. IBImATION OOMPANiR m IN UTAE, Bulletin 322, Agricultura
Experiment Station, Utah State Agricultural Ollege, p. 1 (March 1946).
Most of these are.nutual cmpaiwles, a d the largest coihmereial iiTightion
enterprise is the Utah-Idaho Sugar Co., serving approximately 54,000 aeres
6tfaiiin ithi Bear Rlve r'Vlley. M. p. .
S3 Kinney, IBRIGATION AND WATEB RIHTs, 5 1481, 1482, 1489, pp. 281,
2602, 6teT-2s7& -
"Id. 5 121-281 4 1480, 1489, pp. 2319-2839, 2659, 2678.
m'"The day 0f Individual and partnership enterprise hs long since passed
and that of the private corporation a n4 the mutual ditc4 company has now
also gone so far as new projects are concerned. The public corporation

The irrigation-district system has been described as an ex-
press recognition of the doctrine of public ownership of irri-
gation works1.'0 Ifsnature and purpose have been thus charac-
terized by the Supreme Court of Oregon: 10
The basal principle is the division of the arid area of
the state,, upon invitation of the settlers thereon, into
communities or districts, which are determined by their
irrigability from a common source and through the
same system of works, and to invest such communities
with power to raise revenue by taxation and the issuing
of bonds for the purpose of acquiring water rights and
constructing the necessary canals, reservoirs, and works
for the distribution of the water over the lands within
the district:
The legislature of the Territory of Utah enacted the first
irrigation-district law in 1865.1" Some of the principles of
this early act were incorporated in California's Wright Act.107
Enactment of this later statute was suggested in a period of
growing irrigation consciousness in California, and in part to
overcome opposition by the larger ranchers to previously used
irrigation enterprises.'0 An important feature of the statute
is its permission to a part of the residents of a given area to

is being recognized as practically the sole means for the construction of
new irrigation projects. And, due to the large sums of money and length
of time required for development, public corporations will in the main need
the cooperation of the National or State Government or both.
"The irrigation district is the result of the legislative application of the.
public municipal idea to the needs of irrigation." King and Burr, HANDBOOK
THE UTrrED STATES, p. 8 (1920).
SII Wiel, WATER RIGAT8 IN THE WESTERN STATES, 1356, p. 1249 (3d ed.
SLttle Walla Walla Irr. District v. Preston, 46 Ore. 5, 7, 78 Pac. 982, 988
m See 3 Kinney, IRBIGATION AND WATER RIGHTS, 1401, p. 2524 (2d ed.
"3 Kinney, IBIOATowN AND WATTEB RIGHTS, 1401, p. 2525, and see id.
S1390, Ip. 2518-2520.
Chandler, ELELtEs or WESTERN WER LAw, p. 182 (1918).

incur indebtedness for which all the lands therein would be
liable.1" Holding the Wright Act constitutional in Fallbrook
Irrigation District v.Bradley, the United States Supreme Court
concluded that in a State like California the need for irrigation
of vast acreages is a matter of public interest and a public
purpose not confined to landowners, or even to any one section
of the State."
The Wright Act served as a model for statutes of many'
other states."l Each of the 17 Western States has enacted an
irrigation-district statute." Each such State has provided that
irrigation districts may function in cooperation with the
United States and enter into repayment contracts under Rec-
lamation Law.w The enabling provision is sometimes in-
cluded in the irrigation district statute itself n A statute
especially designed for such cooperating districts was enacted
in New Mexico.m Still another means is the inclusion of such
a cooperation provision in a statute applying to various types
of districts." It may also be noted that various names have
been given under different statutes to districts having func-
tions and powers of the conventional Wright-Act type.mn
By the 1916 Smith Act, Congress authorized the inclusion
of public lands in irrigation districts, subject to specified con-
The customary irrigation-district act contemplates inclusion
of only those lands which will receive irrigation benefits from

CAL. STATS. 1887, 1 1, 17, as amended.
"164 U. S. 112, 161 (1896).
Department of Agriculture Technical Bulletin 254, p. 72 (1981).
partment of Agriculture Miscellaneous Publication No. 108, p. 2 (1981).
"Id. p.4 See also GZr WrAws. or KAN., 1985, 1947 SUP'., 1 42-701(a).
See, e. g., UTAH Coa ANN. 1948, 100-0-11.
"See, e. g., N. MZ. STAT. Asm. 1941, if 77-2201-77-2245.
See, e. g., DEamte's CALtt. CODE, WATxE, 23175 et seq.
m See, e. g., the provision for "water improvement districts" in Vwanmo's
Awm. REV. Civ. STAT. OF Tmx., Art. 7622 et seq.
m Act of August 16, 1916, 39 Stat. 506, as amended, 43 U. S. C. 621 et seq.

the proposed system."' Consequently, by assessments and by
chargeafor water services, irrigable lands alone bear the entire
cost of the irrigation works and their operation. As araesult,
nearby urban settlementiswere established ad flourished upon
the reflected benefits from the irrigation development but bore
none of the cost burden. This situation led some states to
enact provisions for improvement districts authorised- tol in-
*'cude not only lands ,to be benefited directly but also adjacent
areas indirectly beefited, includlbg urban communities. :
Still broader is the Colorado statute making provision foria
general ad valorem tax in certain types of districts."?i This
departure from the earlier limited concept ~of special benefit
assessments, and the substitution of a general tax was upheld
by the Supreme Courtof Colorado as one foir a public pur-
pose." -' In addition t this provision for a general tax, the
statute provides forioluntary agreements for benefit payments
by ,pecia beneficiaarieq f the water development,"8 Anoffier
example of a statute providing for corporate entities with broad
powers in connection with water-use developments is the Met-
"See, e. g., N. MeX STAT. Amr. 1941, 3 77-2205. Under this statute, the
Elephant Butte Irrigation District was'created in connection with the Rio
Grande Project ofthe Bweau of Reclawati0oi ff -77-122p et seq, Sperry v.
Blephant Butte Irr. Dist., 83 N. Mex. 482, 484, 270 Pac. 889, 890 (1928).
SSee, e. g., the New Mexico Conservancy District Act, N. Max. STAT.
Aw4., fr77-2701 eat see, and- the New Mexico Conservancy District and
Reclamation Contract Act, id. 3 77-3101 et seq. : Under the latter statute,
the Arc Hurley Conservancy District functions in connection with the
Tacumcari Project of the Bureau of Reclamation.
Districts of this broader type are often referred to as "conservancy
districts," but the statute itself must be examined to ascertain th nature
of the districts anthoriaed, since named designations are frequently mis-
leading. Seeca gM N, Max. STAT. AmNi. :f 77-8101 ef1~e., and e6itiare
1935 Co.STAT. MmAw., d. .18,;1 S12-1990
m 51] B p iSA ..194taIt*, ch.178A, $t1 .ef. sq
Undepthia statute, the Northern olorado- Water Coservancy District
was created in connection with the Colorade-BDigThoipsnon PrejectBof the
Bureau of RBelamatton. See Act. of August 9, 1987, 0W Stat. 564- 492;
People ex rel. Rogers v. Letford, 102 Colo. 284, 289, 79 P. 2d 274, 278 (1938).
SPeople ex rel. Rogers v. Letford, 102 Colo. 284, 802, 79 P. 2d 274, 284
Cozo. STAT. AN. 1949 SuP., ch, 17aA, 3 19 (8).

ropolitan Water District Act of Utatl."m ThekMetropolitan
Water District of Southern California was fohrmd und 6 a
somewhat similar statute.t
Importance attaches to the financing aspect of irrigation dis-
trit statutes., oi~A f sjf em4ute ze the rea tionf a gen-
erqobligation by the district in favvr of bondholders, or pro-
vide for repayment coprat ligatipns under ReQla tion
aw," The district thus may impose assessments on all a
sessale lands in the district until a bond or comparable con-
tract capital debt is retired. 'y this means, cumulative as
semsments may be made against district lands to meet defi-
ciencies arising from ltonpayment of assessments by some land-
PThei'Oregon case of Yancey v. Noble is representatAie d 'th e
nmaaoity view respecting this sort of cumulative assessmentss.
Provision, fbr suh asi mpments,, strengthening the postibn of
bondheldker and facilitating financing of irrigation iudertak-
ings, has been referred to as thi "last honest acre doctrine,'~
a d-as the inexhaustible taxing' power.'?M rBut it may be
noted that an inexhaustible taxing power is iot always the
equivalent of an inexhaustible tax-colleting power. ;
A minority view will not permit recurring assessments to
meet delinquencies in servicing bond issues. Representative
"t UTAH Coa ANi. ..1843g 9 ( 04Q et sQ 3he con iUteuiaitya of tble
statute was upheld in Lei Oity v. Meling, 87 Utah 2S7, 48 Pac. 680 (1985). ,
S8 DBmuro's GENEBALR UL Or ArL p. 8747 a dSe., andg 1747 BUiTo
p. 270 et eq. See 4aso,,THa MapranaLrrIx WATez DmISMcr cT ,9Sw pN
CauLreaoR4 HmAro P aAn nrw Axnu. RosTwr. pp. 26-0 (1989).
e4,_. f, MEgaTrMD ) .SWIW Sq. Wp WAMs, 192, IU 74B-172, 7408-475.
"It should be noted here that under Reclme atlUpnLaw -fAe oqbWraqtioa
cost obligation must be included Ip "general repayment obligatln ot the
organlqatlon." 4ct of August 4, 98,9 (d), 5B Stat. 1187. 119, 48 lS. C.
485b(d). .
"* 11 Ore. 856,24 Pac. 83M.41925). ,,
i Rosebud Land A Improvement Co. v. Oarterville Irr. .,102 Mot 46,
472, 58 P, 2 765, 768 (1986).
SSee dissenting opinion in Slate ex reL. BwOkwat r Oily of lakeland
112 tla. 200, 218, 150So. 808, B15 (19"3).
See, e. g., Snower v. Hopp Drainage D4~., 2 F. SPiP. 981, 94 (D. 0.
Mo., 193), where the district pleaded its difficult financial situation, floods,
droughts, decline in land values and farm products, and ina lity of land-
owners to pay their taxhs-al ma in collection imposuibte.

is the Colorado case of Ivterstate Trwst Company v. Montezuma
Va1deyrrigatisa District? Under this rule, the bond liability
is charged ratably against the land asa special assessment lien,
so that each parcel once sold for that lien is freed from further
obligation therefore3 Montana decisions accord with this
rule.1" A qualification of the rule has been adopted in Utah.1"
Another aspect of financingg merits notice. Like certain
other local taxing agencies, an irrigation district may have a
composition of is indebtedness under federal bankruptcy legis-
The increasing,use of district organizations for water de-
velopment, utilization, and conservation is well illustrated by
Texas legislation. It has, made special provision for over 30
separate district this type. In; addition, Texas has enacted
.general laws for the organization of many types of districts,
including irrigation districts, water-improvement districts, con-
servation and reclamation districts, water-control and improve-
ment districts, water-control and preservation districts, fresh-
water-supply districts, levee-improvement districts, drainage
districts, and navigation districts."

's 8 Colo. 219, 181.Pai. 123 (1919). Three~years earlier, and prior to a
state ruling on the point, a federal trial court adopted the minority view.
Norritv. Montezum ValleypIrr. Dist., 240 Fed. 825 (D. C. Colo., 1916). But
this decision was reversed in Norris v. M tearima Valley Irr. Dist., 248 Fed.
809 (C. 8,1918); eert. den, 248 U. S. 569 (1918).
Subsequent federal decisions in cases arising in Colorado have followed
the holding of the Interstate case. Denver-Greeley Valley Irr. Dist. v. Mo-
Neil, 80 ;F. 2d k M09 t .. A. 18, 1986); ilei v. TriWnoera Irr. Dset.,
1s .as2ds894, 8s 7 (AA., 10, 1943).
"66 Colo. at pp. 224-225, 181 Pac. it p. 125.
SSee, e. g., SBate ex rel. Malolt v. Board of Com'rs of Cascade County, 89
Mont., 37, 95, 296 Pac. 1, 18-19 (1931).
See, e. g., Nelson v. Board of Corn's f 'Dvis Couty, 62 Utai 28, 224,
218 Pad.952, 954 (1923).
SAct of August 16, 1937, 50 Stat. 653, 654, as amended, 11 U.: C. 401
et seq. An earlier provision was held unconstitutional in Ashton v. Cameron
County Water Improvement District No. One, 298 U. S. 513 (1986).
See VEBNON'S ANN. PR. CIVIL STATS. OF TErXA, 1937, and 1949 CuM.
SSw., Title 128, ch, 8.
VERNON's A B QiVM STATI. x TiyAs, vol. 21, Water.

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