Texas Versus New Mexico Water Lawsuit Should Move Forward
In an important legal action, the U.S. Solicitor General’s office said Tuesday that the State of Texas has provided enough legal evidence at this stage to move forward with its water compact dispute case against the state of New Mexico before the U.S. Supreme Court. Earlier this year, Texas filed its original action claim against New Mexico regarding damages to Texas from New Mexico’s illegal and unauthorized diversions of project water below Elephant Butte that have harmed Texas’ allocation in accordance with the Rio Grande Project and the 1938 Rio Grande Compact. Texas, New Mexico and Colorado each filed briefs on the case. The Supreme Court asked the U.S. Solicitor General to weigh in on the case before deciding to take the action.
The brief says in part, “The Court should grant Texas’ leave to file its complaint. Texas alleges an interstate dispute of sufficient importance to warrant this Court’s exercise of its original jurisdiction, and there is no other forum in which the controversy practicably can be resolved.”
Texas Rio Grande Compact Commissioner Patrick Gordon said, “I’m extremely appreciative and supportive of the United States amicus brief filed today. It is critical for this case to advance so that Texas’ water under the Compact and Rio Grande Project is protected and the damaging impacts to Texas can be addressed and reversed.”
“The Rio Grande is a critical water supply for our state, and I fully support the decision to file the lawsuit in order to protect water due to Texas under the Compact. I greatly appreciate the federal government recognizing the validity of the claim and the reasons for our action,” said Texas Water Development Board Chairman Carlos Rubinstein.
“I believe that this statement from the Solicitor General is an important milestone in protecting Texas’ water rights,” said TCEQ Chairman Bryan W. Shaw, Ph.D.,P.E. “While Texas is loath to sue our New Mexico neighbor, river compacts are law, Texas rightfully depends on water apportioned under the law, and the compacts must be enforced.”
The legal brief agrees with Texas’ view of the compact which apportioned the waters of the Rio Grande Basin—from its headwaters to Fort Quitman—among the three compacting States. The Solicitor General’s brief states that New Mexico’s view of the Compact is also inconsistent with the requirement that New Mexico “deliver” a specific quantity of water to Elephant Butte.
In addition, according to the Solicitor General’s brief, New Mexico does not appear to contest that there have been substantial diversions of surface water and groundwater in New Mexico below Elephant Butte Reservoir.
The Solicitor General’s legal brief states that Texas should be granted leave to file its complaint, and New Mexico invited to file a motion to dismiss the complaint. The brief states that the Supreme Court might consider the motions, or refer the matter to a court-appointed Special Master.