News Feature | November 23, 2017

New Mexico, Texas Water War Heads To Supreme Court

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Texas and New Mexico may fight it out at the Supreme Court next year in a conflict over groundwater pumping along the state border and the control of the Rio Grande.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments in a lengthy battle between New Mexico and Texas over management of one of North America's longest rivers. Oral arguments in the Rio Grande case are scheduled January 8,” the Associated Press reported.

“All sides say the stakes are high given uncertainty about the future sustainability of water supplies throughout the Rio Grande Valley. Farmers, water policy experts, city officials and others have been working behind the scenes to build a framework for a possible settlement,” the report said.

Texas initially brought the lawsuit four years ago, demanding that New Mexico cease groundwater pumping along the border, the Associated Press reported. Texas wants more of the river to be available to farmers and residents in El Paso.

“New Mexico must give Texas so much water every year as part of a long-standing agreement. However, in dry years New Mexico farmers have been forced to pump groundwater for their crops. Texas didn’t like that and sued back in 2013,” KRQE reported.

New Mexico officials say they are open to settling the case, the report said. “The farmers, municipalities and commercial users [in New Mexico] that would be affected by a ruling have been meeting regularly to build a framework for a possible settlement,” the report said.

The river in question is a vital water source in the southwest. The river stretches “from southern Colorado to Mexico and irrigating more than 3,100 square miles (8,000 square kilometers) of farmland along the way. Several major cities also rely on the river's water supply,” the AP reported.

To read more about how various water systems divide up rights to scarce resources visit Water Online’s Water Scarcity Solutions Center.