WYOMING V. COLORADO, 309 U. S. 572 (1940)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Wyoming v. Colorado, 309 U.S. 572 (1940)

Wyoming v. Colorado

No. 10, original, October Term, 1935

Argued February 26, 27, 1940

Decided April 22, 1940

309 U.S. 572


1. The decree of this Court in the litigation between Wyoming and Colorado over the Laramie River limits the quantity of water which Colorado may divert from the stream to a maximum of 39,750 acre feet per annum. P. 309 U. S. 576.

2. So long as this maximum is not exceeded, Colorado remains free to determine, by her laws and adjudications, how the water diverted shall be distributed and used by and among her water users. Pp. 309 U. S. 579 et seq.

3. That portion of the water allocated to Colorado which was allowed on the basis of the "Meadow Land Appropriations" was limited by the decree of this Court to 4,250 acre feet measured at the point of diversion from the stream, this quantity being deemed sufficient when the water is rightly, and not wastefully, applied. P. 309 U. S. 578.

Colorado's claim of a right to continue applying much larger quantities to the meadowland irrigation upon the ground that the greater part of the water so applied returns to the stream through surface drainage and percolation, so that the part actually consumed does not exceed 4,250 acre feet, was considered and rejected in fixing that limit to the Meadow Land Appropriations.

4. Upon an application to have Colorado adjudged in contempt for having withdrawn more water from the Laramie River than the 39,750 acre feet limited by this Court's decree, a defense upon the ground that Wyoming was not injured is inadmissible. P. 309 U. S. 581.

5. Colorado, being charged with having made excessive withdrawals of water from the Laramie River, in contempt of this Court's decree, adduced proof by affidavits that the withdrawals, made through the meadowland ditches, were acquiesced in by Wyoming officials, for the reason that a great portion of the water so diverted returned to the river to be used downstream by Wyoming appropriators. Wyoming presented affidavits to the contrary. Held: that, in the light of all the circumstances, it sufficiently appears that there was uncertainty and room for misunderstanding which may be considered in extenuation; but, in the future, there will be no ground for any possible misapprehension based upon views of the effect of the meadowland diversions or otherwise with

Page 309 U. S. 573

respect to the duty of Colorado to keep her total diversions from the Laramie River and its tributaries within the limit fixed by the decree. P. 309 U. S. 581.

Upon a petition of the State of Wyoming praying that the State of Colorado be adjudged in contempt for having diverted water from the Laramie River in excess of the quantity allowed by the decree of this Court, and upon returns of the Colorado submitted in response to an order to show cause. See post, p. 627 [see printed version].

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