Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Supreme Court decision on groundwater rights could have implications for interstate water wars in era of more droughts

Aquifer being tapped by Memphis and Mississippi
(Wall Street Journal map, adapted by The Rural Blog)
On Monday the Supreme Court unanimously found that Tennessee was not stealing Mississippi's groundwater; the ruling has broad implications for how states manage natural resources, especially as climate change continues to drive droughts, Bobby Magill reports for Bloomberg.

Over a century ago, the Supreme Court established the equitable apportionment doctrine as a rubric for deciding interstate conflicts over common bodies of water. This case is the first to extend that doctrine to groundwater, Jess Bravin reports for The Wall Street Journal.

"Mississippi accused a Memphis utility of improperly pumping water out of an interstate aquifer spanning the region, claiming it wasn’t a 'shared resource.' The dispute centered on whether the utility interfered with Mississippi’s authority over its land and waters," Magill reports.

Mississippi sought at least $615 million in damages, claiming it was more difficult and expensive to access water because the Memphis utility was drawing so much out of the Middle Claiborne Aquifer—some 120 million gallons per day, Bravin reports. The aquifer lies under eight states in the Mississippi River Basin.

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