Washington County Water Conservancy District v. Morgan

In Washington County Water Conservancy District v. Morgan, 2003 UT 58, 82 P.3d 1125, the plaintiff alleged that its water use would be adversely affected by the approval of the defendant's application "to alter the nature, place of use, and points of diversion" of its water right. Id. Because the plaintiff's interest in the dispute depended upon whether the plaintiff's water originated from the same source as the defendant's water, the district court required the plaintiff to show a "measurable connection" between its water source and the defendant's water source. Id. A trial was held to determine whether the water sources were connected. Id. At trial, the plaintiff called expert witnesses and introduced "empirical testing" evidence to show the sources were connected. Id. The defendant countered by calling its own expert witnesses, who testified that the sources were not connected. Id. The trial court did not find the plaintiff's witnesses and evidence persuasive, and held that the plaintiff did not have standing because it could not show it had a sufficient interest in the dispute, id.; the trial court therefore did not need to consider causation and redressability. The Court affirmed the trial court, holding that: Where expert witnesses disagree and where the party carrying the burden of establishing standing is unable to present empirical or measurable evidence of a direct connection between the sources from which the parties have rights to draw water, we cannot conclude that the trial court erred in finding the evidence inconclusive. Id.