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Higday v. Nickolaus

Kansas City Court of Appeals, Missouri
469 S.W.2d 859 (1971)


Several landowners (plaintiffs) owned farmland overlying a water basin. The basin supplied water for the landowners’ agricultural and personal uses. The City of Columbia (the city) (defendant) had a water shortage. The city acquired land overlying the water basin, for the purpose of extracting and transporting 11.5 million gallons of water daily for sale to the city’s residents. The basin’s daily recharge rate was 10.5 million gallons. The landowners sued the city seeking: (1) a judicial declaration that the city had no right to extract the water for any use unrelated to the beneficial ownership or enjoyment of the land, including sale away from the land, and (2) an injunction preventing the city from extracting the water. The landowners claimed that the city’s intended consumption would lower the basin’s water table and harm the landowners’ ability to use the groundwater. However, the city claimed that the English common law rule of absolute ownership of percolating waters gave it the right to withdraw an unlimited amount of groundwater, even if the result was to drain all groundwater from neighboring lands. The city moved to dismiss the case, and the trial court granted the motion. The landowners appealed to the Kansas City Court of Appeals.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Shangler, C.J.)

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