are implemented through litigation or private negotiation. While prior appropriation was initially adopted in a few western states by court decision, it will be discussed separately as a statutory rather than a judicial doctrine.
Absolute Ownership. The earliest judicial theory of ground water rights is the doctrine of absolute ownership, also referred to as the English rule. Under the absolute ownership doctrine the landowner is, by virtue of land ownership, considered owner of the ground water in place. Thus in absolute ownership jurisdictions a landowner may pump as much ground water as possible, without regard to the effect his pumping has on neighboring landowners.
The English rule of absolute ownership reflected 19th-century judicial observations that the movement of ground water was unknowable and thus it was unfair to hold a landowner liable for interfering with a neighbor's well when it was not knowable whether the defendant's pumping actually affected the plaintiff's well or not. The English rule was once quite popular in the United States, but now only Texas among the western states remains an absolute ownership jurisdiction; although Texas now has a number of sub-state districts where ground water use is now regulated, e.g. Houston/Galveston area, High Plains, San Antonio. Some eastern states may still be English rule jurisdictions, but the judicial trend is toward adoption of the eastern correlative rights doctrine.
Reasonable Use. The reasonable use rule, or American rule, was developed in the 19th century. Under the American rule landowners are entitled to use ground water on their own land without waste. If their use exceeds this ''reasonable use," the landowner is liable in damages. The American rule may still be followed in a few eastern states, although it is being judicially replaced by the eastern correlative rights doctrine. The reasonable use doctrine is part of the ground water jurisprudence of Nebraska, Arizona, and California.
Western Correlative Rights. The California doctrine of correlative rights also initially developed in the 19th century but has continued to develop. Under the correlative rights doctrine, if the ground water supply is inadequate to meet the needs of all users, each user can be judicially required to proportionally reduce use until the overdraft is ended. The policy significance of correlative rights is that each well owner is treated as having an equal right to ground water regardless of when first use was initiated.
The correlative rights doctrine is part of the ground water jurisprudence of California and Nebraska, although its sharing feature has been incorporated into the ground water depletion statutes of a few other western states.
Eastern Correlative Rights. The eastern correlative rights doctrine, inspired by the Second Restatement of Torts, states that when conflicts between users occur, water will be allocated to the "most beneficial" use, giving consideration