By Ron Stoneberg
Hinsdale, Mont 



November 18, 2020

The Congressional Desert Land Act of 1877 severed the non-navigable surface water and the ground water from the western federal lands and gave them to the states. This resulted in a split estate of the western public lands. The Act of 1890 declared all lands west of the 100th meridian were under the "Prior Appropriation Doctrine" as it applied to water rights. It contained three main components: A. First in time, first in right, B. The user of the water and not the owner of the land gets the water right, and C. The water must be diverted and put to a beneficial use. Early legislation a...

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