What constitutes a reasonable use of a stream by proprietors other than the riparian owner is a question of fact depending on the circumstances of each particular case, including, among other things, the volume of water in the stream, the seasons and climatic conditions, and the needs of other riparian proprietors.
The trust's real estate adjoined real estate owned by the landowners, and a spring-fed stream flowed across both properties. The landowners constructed a dam along the path of the stream to fill two ponds on their property, and the flow of water onto the trust's property ceased, leaving insufficient water on the trust's property for livestock. The Circuit Court of Barry County, Missouri, granted respondent trustee damages and a permanent injunction directing appellants, neighboring landowners, to dismantle a dam across a stream that provided water to property owned by the trust, of which the trustee was the principal fiduciary. The landowners appealed, arguing it denied them reasonable use of the stream and that the trust was not damaged; therefore, it was not entitled to an injunction or damages.
Was the landowner’s construction of a dam along the path of a stream to fill two ponds reasonable use of the stream?
The appellate court held that, although the landowners owned the bed of the stream where it crossed their property, they did not have exclusive title to the water in the stream. The appellate court further held that the use to which the landowners sought to put the stream was not reasonable, in that it diverted the natural watercourse on their property to the exclusion of its long-standing use on the trust's property. The appellate court concluded that the trustee was entitled to seek both damages and injunctive relief in the same action. The judgment of the trial court was affirmed.