WHO OWNS THE RIVERS?
Says the Kansas City, Mo.,“Star:” An interesting question is likely to arise in connection with the irrigation boom. It is: Who owns the rivers? In the irrigation congress at Albuquerque a Mexican gentleman discussed the appropriation of the Rio Grande by the Americans. Once, he stated, the Rio Grande was navigable from its mouth to El Paso; now, owing to the abstraction of the water by the up-river irrigationists the lower Rio Grande is no longer a navigable stream, and is scarcely a river at all. This is a pitiful fate for a stream forming the boundary between nations—the Rio Grande, (the Great River).
Similar complaints have arisen nearer home. It has been extensively published of late that the failure of the ” Soule Ditch,” an extensive irrigation enterprise in Western Kansas, was caused by the absorption of the w ater of the Arkansas river by the Colorado irrigators, leaving the Kansas cultivatois without the necessary moisture.
It has always been held that a river, once started, was under the protection of the law* in its course. Laws have been made to prevent the building of dams across even unuavigablestreams in a manner to prevent fish from traveling up and down,and navigable streams,or streams declared bylaw to be navigable, are the subjects of many statutes. Now the rivers must lie regulated and preserved by law for the benefit of down-stream irrigators as well as for fish and navigators.
It may be well imagined that this will form a question of considerable difficulty and delicacy. Who has the best right to a river— those who own the head of the river, or those who own its mouth?
J he moral seems to be that the best system of irrigation is that where each individual irrigator owns and controls ids own source of water supply; where he is not “ beholden to any other man for water, but pumps from his own property, which extends to the centre of the earth, all of the vital fluid he needs and uses. The vexed question of the rivers, their use and ownership, should strengthen the cause of the every-rnan-his-own-irrigator advocates.