Washington Law Review


The general water policy applicable to unappropriated land within Washington Territory was that of prior appropriation and was announced by the Congress at an early date.6 Congressional enactments were passed in order to conform policy to the then existing practice of appropriation of water to a beneficial use and to encourage settlement of new areas. The Desert Land Act of 1877 effected a severance of all unappropriated non-navigable water from the public domain and made these waters publici juris. In addition, the states, including those forthcoming from the territories, were given plenary control over the severed water and were allowed to determine for themselves to what extent the rule of appropriation or the common-law rules of riparian rights should apply to acquisition of water rights by private persons. The effect of the federal legislation then did not bind the states to any one water policy, but instead adopted the law of each state as the federal law to be applied within the state's boundaries.

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