An Interesting Water Works Decision
A decision which, while applying to a small water works, would seem to embody an important legal precedent has just been decided by the supreme court of the state of Nebraska. It seems that the city of Chadron, Neb., with a population of 4,412, desiring to increase its water supply added an underground collecting system, a pipe line and a one-million-gallon reservoir at a cost, of $168,000. It was then discovered that no permit bad been obtained from the state department of public works or taking of the additional amount of water necessary to supply the new system from Chadron Creek or to install the new water works. It was even found that the city had never obtained the authority to build a large storage dam constructed across the creek some ten years ago or the right to store the excess water. The city immediately applied for the necessary permission from the board but strenuous opposition developed from a group of property owners who possessed land on the creek below the dam.
After a hearing in which both sides presented their cases, the public works department decided in every instance against the city of Chadron and the necessary permits were refused. The case was then appealed to the state supreme court with the result that the decision of the state board of public works was reversed and it was instructed to grant the necessary permits.
The importance of this decision and its interest to water works men lies in the fact that in spite of the evident neglect on the part of the city authorities to comply with the law and obtain the authority of the body constituted for this purpose by the state before going ahead with its improvements, the court recognized the public necessity for a water supply as paramount to these considerations. In the face of the opposition on the part of the property owners abutting on the creek below the dam, who would be losers by the granting of the permit, the court decided in favor of the city and in thus reversing the decision of the state board recognized the principle that the public’s necessity overshadows all other interests. It would seem that this decision presents an important precedent for similar cases in water works practice.