In a water fight between Texas and New Mexico, a special master named by the U.S. Supreme Court says Texas might have a case in claiming New Mexico is overusing water government by a 1938 state water-sharing agreement.
It means the dispute will continue in the courts. The Special Master issued a report recommending the Supreme Court deny the motion to dismiss by New Mexico and the motions to intervene by El Paso County Water Improvement District No.1 and Elephant butte Irrigation District.
Texas went to court because of New Mexico’s increasing water use and groundwater pumping below Elephant butte Reservoir is depriving Texas of water apportioned to it under a 1938 Rio Grande Compact.
“The issuance of the report clears one more important hurdle for this very important case to move forward,” said Rio Grande Compact Commissioner Pat Gordon. “I have said from the beginning of this case Texas was right in pursuing litigation especially after discussions with the New Mexico Attorney General have failed. This report defines the parties to the litigation and provides a strong foundation on which Texas has built its case. We are ready to move the case forward.”
The Compact apportions the waters of the Rio Grande among the signatory states of Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas. The Compact apportions all of the water that New Mexico delivers into Elephant Butte Reservoir to Texas, subject to the United States’ Treaty obligation to Mexico and the United States’ project contract with EBID in New Mexico. Texas is deprived of water apportioned to it in the Compact because New Mexico has authorized and permitted wells that have been developed near the Rio Grande in New Mexico. The more than 3,000 wells pump tens of thousands of acre-feet of water that is hydrologically connected to the Rio Grande. In addition, New Mexico has permitted wells that would facilitate water use, which in the future will likely significantly increase pumping of Compact water. The pumping has both a direct and indirect effect on Texas’ ability to obtain the water the Compact apportioned to it.