Texas v. New Mexico

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Water Rights
  • Date Filed: October 10, 2017
  • Case #: 220141
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: U.S. Supreme Court
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether New Mexico is prohibited from recapturing water it has delivered to Elephant Butte Reservoir pursuant to the 1938 Rio Grande Compact, after that water is released from the Reservoir.

The Court granted leave for Petitioner to file its motion and brief with the Court and attach its complaint as an exhibit, which alleged that Respondent New Mexico is unlawfully diverting water away from Petitioner back to Respondent New Mexico, in violation of the 1938 Rio Grande Compact. The Court subsequently appointed a Special Master to preside over the proceedings. Respondent New Mexico argued that the 1938 Rio Grande Compact only required them to deliver Petitioner’s share of the Rio Grande water to Elephant Butte Reservoir. Once it made the delivery, Respondent argues they were under no obligation to refrain from diverting the water away from Petitioner and towards its own users. Petitioner responded that this act violated the purpose of the Compact and denied Petitioner its equitable apportionment of water. The United States intervened as a third party plaintiff; this was a historically unprecedented move in an original jurisdiction action over the apportionment of the nation’s streams. The Special Master’s report recommended that the Court find that Respondent New Mexico is prohibited from recapturing water it has delivered to the Rio Grande project after that water is released from the Elephant Butte Reservoir. In their briefing, the United States argues that they should be allowed to seek declaratory and injunctive relief and Respondent Colorado argues that the United State should be limited in their relief but that parties should be allowed to go through discovery and be heard before accepting the Special Master’s Report.

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