AN UNHAPPY DILEMMA.
“LOOK before you leap” is a proverb of universal application. If it were of more universal acceptation on the part of towns and municipalities in search of sources of water supply, it would save a vast amount of litigation, waste of money, delay, and disappointment. In the minds of the trustees of many villages and the councilmen of no few cities there seems to be a fixed idea that all they have to do in order to obtain pure water and enough of it is to preempt the nearest river or lake and draw on it for their supply, without considering whether or not any other parties have rights in the matter. Then, when the plant is completed and everything is in working order for supplying the water, suddenly some one springs an injunction upon the municipality, on the ground that the diversion of the source or the abstraction of water therefrom is detrimental to the business of the applicant for the injunction. It is then in power of the court either to grant a temporary injunction to prevent the water being turned off for the use of the defendants while the suit is pending-to the manifest inconvenience and loss of the latter, or, as in the case of the Sparks Manufacturing Company v. Newton, N. J., to allow the defendants to use the water for fire and domestic, but not for manufacturing or mechanical purposes or power till a decision is reached. In the case alluded to the court of Chancery of New Jersey has granted an order to the authorities of Newton to show cause why it should not be enjoined from using the water from Morris lake. The complainants allege that the construction of the water works by the town has hindered the waters of Morris lake from their natural flow down to the Walkill, and thereby deprived the company of their use. The further claim is made that the town has no right to take any water from the lake. The court (till the answer of Newton is filed) has restrained the town from taking any of the water for mechanical or manufacturing purposes or for power except as to the New Jersey ‘’Herald” presses and the sausage mills of Casper Grover- and the use of the water for these may at any time be discontinued by the court. Furthermore, the complainants may at any time upon notice apply for a more restrictive order against the town as to the present use of the water. The question also arises, if the town has the tight to take water from the lakes for any other than fire and domestic purposes. If not, then its prospects of being bnilt up by the further establishment of manufacturing industries arc problematical. The water works were constructed under a lawpassed to that end in 1884. This was supposed to define the rights of the town. It remains to be seen how the court will construe that law and also the deed or agreement by which the town claims to have the right of taking water from Morris lake. If the complainants succeed in this action, the town must discontinue the use of water from Morris lake or pay damages to the complainants for the diversion of the water. If the latter, then the question becomes one of dollars and cents-and how much the aggregate damage may be is of grave importance to the town of Newton, which has already spent about $104,000 in the construction of the works, in lands, a house and barn, and the buildings and improvements at the lake, with the prospect hanging over its head of paying out ever so much more in the way of damages. And, what is worse, if the town must respond in damages in this case, then the other owners of water powers along the same stream may also claim damages in their turn. If the present claimants are successful, it will be in spite of the fact that the reservoir constructed by the town may furnish them with more water than they have heretofore had, and by increasing the storage capacity of the lake tenfold have been enabled to furnish the riparian owners with additional water-all of which rnay have no bearing upon the legal question whether the town can divert any water from the lake. The amount of damages also may be measured not by the quantity of water now being taken by the town, but by the amount which it proposes to take, that is, by the total capacity of the water works as now constructed. Whatever damages may be secured against the town the people will be compelled to pay, in addition to all the costs and expenses. But would it not have been better to have been sure as to all this before taking the work in hand at all?