What is in this article?:
- Southwest states gear up for water battle
- Water treaty complicates issue
Some growers in southern New Mexico fear that lawsuit could result in a settlement that could favor Texas, making less water from the river available to New Mexico farmers.
With both Texas and New Mexico suffering from multiple years of serious drought it comes as no surprise that the Attorney Generals of both states are gearing up for what could be a monumental legal battle now that the U.S. Supreme Court has cleared the way for Texas to argue their case in the highest federal court over what they charge is a violation of a water sharing agreement.
In dispute is a long-standing issue of the way the two states divide water from the Rio Grande. Both states previously reached an agreement on how to divide up the waters of the river with the assistance of federal resource management officials. But after Texas charged New Mexico water officials with violating that agreement as a result of groundwater pumping from the Rio Grande basin, they asked last January that the dispute be elevated to nation's highest court.
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On Monday, Jan. 27, the Supreme Court ruled that the case could be presented before Chief Justices and instructed attorneys for both states to prepare their briefs. But the court also provided a quick settlement clause to New Mexico officials by leaving the door open for them to file a motion within 60 days seeking the case's dismissal.
The question of who owns the water in the river and how it will be divided dates back generations, but in recent years drought conditions and agricultural growth have complicated water issues and how the resource is best managed between the two states. After much disagreement and legal horn rattling, both sides reached an agreement in 2008 with federal support that dictated how water from the river would be shared, thereby avoiding what both sides considered a costly and possible lengthy legal battle.
But as drought conditions prevailed across multiple years, New Mexico Attorney General Gary King filed a lawsuit in 2011 designed to invalidate the interstate water agreement. King's office charged that New Mexico was giving up too much water to Texas and wanted the court to settle the dispute.