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U.S. Supreme Court rejects states’ deal on Rio Grande


The U.S. Supreme Court is allowing the federal government to block the deal Texas and New Mexico proposed to end a decade of litigation over Rio Grande water.

The decision made Friday morning now raises questions for if the states, and the federal government will have to go back to the negotiation table or stand before a judge.

The order stated that the 2022 deal hammered out between New Mexico, Colorado and Texas to measure water deliveries at El Paso — and allocate the river in southern New Mexico and far west Texas at a 57-43 split — was not in line with Rio Grande Compact, the 85-year old legal agreement dividing the river.

In the majority opinion, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson wrote that the federal government has a right to be a part of the deal and has claims under the 1939 Rio Grande Compact.

“We cannot now allow Texas and New Mexico to leave the United States up the river without a paddle. Because the consent decree would dispose of the United States’ Compact claims without its consent,” Jackson wrote.

Justice Neil Gorsuch was the only judge to write a dissent.

The original lawsuit was brought in 2013 by Texas alleging that New Mexico was groundwater pumping below Elephant Butte reservoir, taking Rio Grande water Texas argued belonged to it under the 1939 compact.

U.S. Supreme Court, Rio Grande, litigation, water