The annual guessing game for the Supreme Court docket is currently on and one of the cases may cover familiar ground. Although a Supreme Court decision for Oklahoma concerning water was handed down last spring, there is one more water case for Texas that must be sorted out. This one concerns another neighbor – New Mexico.
In February 2013, Texas filed suit against New Mexico and Colorado in the United States Supreme Court in a battle concerning the Rio Grande Compact. All of Texas’ claims are based upon alleged wrongful conduct by and in New Mexico. Texas claims that New Mexico is illegally depleting the Rio Grande’s flow before it reaches the New Mexico/Texas state line. Texas claims that New Mexico allows impermissible diversion of surface water from the river and that increased groundwater pumping also depletes the river by causing the surface water to leave the river to recharge connected underground aquifers. Although Texas does not point to a specific term of the Compact that was violated and does not dispute that New Mexico is delivering the correct amount of water into the Elephant Butte Reservoir, it claims that the “purpose and intent” of the Compact is violated when New Mexico allows water to be diverted prior to delivery into Texas.
In response, New Mexico claims that its only obligation under the Compact is to deliver a certain amount of water into the Elephant Butte Reservoir. The Compact does not require any specific amount of water be delivered to the Texas/New Mexico state line. New Mexico claims that what happens between the Reservoir and the Texas state line is governed by New Mexico law and not by the Compact. New Mexico claims that the wells drilled below the Reservoir are proper as they were drilled based upon water rights that were granted under New Mexico law.
To review the case, go to:http://sblog.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/1-7-13-Texas-v-NM-booklet.pdf
In an illustration of the tensions over this issue, a spokesman for New Mexico Governor, Susana Martinez, has said that New Mexico “will not cede one inch of New Mexico water to Texas.”