Oklahoma and Texas will face off in the U.S. Supreme Court. The court will hear arguements in the case of Tarrant Regional Water District vs. Hermann etal. The case pits Oklahoma against Texas over rights to water from the river that forms part of the border between them. Depending on how tie court decides, it could impact inter-state water sharing agreements across the country.
The judges decision may hinge on a missing phrase in the compact that has apportioned water rights in the Red River Basin to 4 states for mire than 30 years. Many pages in the briefs a devoted to whether Texas can reach into Oklahoma to get water because there is no clause in the compact that specifically prohibited Texas from doing so. Also at issue is a set of Oklahoma policies effectively and improperly prevent inter-state water exports. The case before the court was brought by the Tarrant Regional Water District(TRWD), a Texas agency that provided water to more than 6 million residents of North Texas and says it desperately needs more water to supply the growing population. The agency claims Texas is entitled to water that can only be obtained in Oklahoma. It argues that the compact explicitely allows for the water to be taken from Oklahoma.
The population of North Texas has boomed and is projected to continue doing so. North Texas will likely outgrow its water supply in 60 years. Oklahoma has a lot of water, it sits in the middle of a large Mississippi River basin where water is funneled from the melting snow pack of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and flows southeast into the Arkansas River and its tributaries. A second watershed in the Texas panhandle and Western Oklahoma supplies Palomino During Creek near Amarillo, Texas. According to the TRWD Oklahoma doesn’t use much of what it has.
The TRWD’s arguments are,; Oklahoma’s protectionist laws against out of state water exports amounts to an embargo that violates the Commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution. Also that the Red River,s compact grant of “equal rights” to the water in the subbasin in question should pre-empt Oklahoma’s laws.
The Oklahoma argument; The Red River compact doesn’t give the TRWD authority to release water from an Oklahoma reservoir and export it to Texas. Texas has no authority over water within Oklahoma’s boundaries. Texas can’t prevent Oklahoma from using water before it reaches its border.
Tie Supreme Court couldrule narrowly on the facts of the case, which would limit the decisions impact to just Texas and Oklahoma. If the court rules more broadly, however, the case could have wide ranging effects on inter-state and possibly international water compacts.
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