From this week’s Albuquerque Journal, a piece looking at the history and future of the notion of “beneficial use” in western water law:
The doctrine’s history is bound up in the ideas of the generation of European immigrants who swept across the region in the 1800s, establishing what became United States law.
“The climate is dry,” a Colorado judge wrote in 1882, explaining the concept, “and the soil, when moistened only by the usual rainfall, is arid and unproductive; except in a few favored sections, artificial irrigation for agriculture is an absolute necessity. Water in the various streams thus acquires a value unknown in moister climates.”
The quote is from the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Coffin et al v. The Left Hand Ditch Company.