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Will the Supreme Court take on water rights in the next session?

| Aug 21, 2020 | Regulatory Compliance |

Water is a precious resource. Lawmakers recognize its uniqueness and have passed numerous laws to protect it that impact the actions we take around waterways. These laws affect everyone from individual developers to states as a whole.

Big water issues: Cases likely headed to the highest court in the U.S.

When a water dispute arises between states, the dispute is generally resolved within the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). SCOTUS is likely to take on three cases that question water rights in the next session. The cases address the following issues:

  • Aquifers. In Mississippi v. Tennessee, the parties’ question whether or not Tennessee’s use of groundwater from an aquifer below both states violate Mississippi’s rights. Essentially, Mississippi claims Tennessee’s active pumping of the resource constitutes an illegal taking.
  • Wells. Texas v. New Mexico and Colorado questions whether groundwater connected to surface water receives protections from an interstate water compact. In this case, Texas argues the other states are using groundwater wells to divert its surface water.
  • Evaporation. In Texas v. New Mexico, Texas officials asked New Mexico to store water allocated to the state under the Pecos River Compact because Texas did not have the reservoir capacity to hold the water. Years later, when Texas was ready to receive the water, New Mexico officials noticed large losses of water due to evaporation. This case questions whether or not the evaporated losses count as delivered to Texas.

The cases provide an example of the legal battles that are taking place involving water use.

Local issues: Additional cases involving individuals, developers and local authorities likely

These are only a few examples of water use disputes. Local battles are also likely to take place in the coming years. Those who find themselves attempting to navigate these issues can benefit from legal counsel experienced in this niche area of the law.