News Feature | March 26, 2014

Texas Wins Advantage In Groundwater Fight With New Mexico

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

NewMexico

The federal government is siding with Texas in a groundwater dispute with New Mexico. 

The development is a major blow to New Mexico, "which argues that it is already meeting its legal obligations to share water with its neighbor," according to the Albuquerque Journal.

At issue is "whether southern New Mexico groundwater pumping is depriving Texas farmers and cities of water that should rightfully be theirs," the report said.  

The government's position was issued late last month in a brief by U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli. 

He claimed that "excess groundwater pumping in New Mexico is intercepting water in the shallow aquifer that would otherwise drain back into the Rio Grande and flow to Texas. Federal attorneys asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene and order New Mexico to curtail such pumping to the extent that it is harming Texas water users," the report said. 

New Mexico farmers are struggling with water scarcity, and the proceeding is not helping matters. The case "has cast a cloud over the Rio Grande farming districts of Hatch and Mesilla valleys as the region enters the fourth consecutive year of extreme drought. Irrigation with Rio Grande water usually begins as early as March. This year, with a bad snowpack and a small reserve currently in Elephant Butte Reservoir, irrigation is not scheduled to start until June 1," the report said.

It's a high-stakes issues. A win for Texas could be "a death knell" for south New Mexico farming, according to Matt Rush of the New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau.

 "We're amidst one of the greatest droughts that we've ever had, and we're without any water from the river," he said in an E&E News report.

The case remains unresolved despite that the feds chose a position. "The Supreme Court will decide whether it will hear Texas' case in the coming weeks," E&E News noted.  

How are the states getting along as they wait for a result? Not great. 

"Tensions run high between the states. Texas has allocated $5 million to pursuing this litigation. When asked about the litigation, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has said that New Mexico 'will not cede one inch of New Mexico water to Texas,'" Progressive Cattleman reported

For case studies, check out Water Online's Drinking Water Analysis Solution Center

Image credit: "Welcome to New Mexico," © 2007 St_A_Sh, used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en

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