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Ownership of real property is but an aggregation of qualified principles the limits of which are prescribed by the equality of rights, and the correlation of rights and obligations necessary for the highest use of land by the entire community of proprietors. Proprietary rights are limited by the common interests of others, -- that is, to a reasonable use, -- and such use one may make of his land, though it injures others.
There was an underground artesian belt underneath landowner's and neighboring water company's land. Landowner had sunk wells into the belt to water his plants, after which water company sank its wells and sold the water, causing reduction in flow of landowner's wells. Landowner brought suit to enjoin water company from drawing off and diverting water from the belt. The trial court granted water company's motion for nonsuit. The court reversed and ordered a new trial.
Did the water company's use of the water violate the doctrine of reasonable use of land?
The court held that landowner had no riparian rights in any "underground stream," since it was not really a stream. But water company was not free to take water from the belt so as to injure landowner. The concept of cujus est solum, ejus est usque ad inferos (an owner had unfettered rights to what was in or on his land) did not apply. Instead, the court imposed the doctrine of reasonable use. On rehearing, the court declined to overturn its holding. Even if the "cujus est solum" doctrine was part of the common law, it could be overruled here for policy reasons. Water was so important to California that such policy considerations were paramount.