By Michael Coleman / Albuquerque Journal Washington Bureau
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday that the federal government can intervene in a water case pitting Texas against New Mexico and Colorado, meaning the case will be sent back to a “special master” to arbitrate the dispute.
The opinion, written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, said the federal government must be allowed to meet its federal water obligations – including an international agreement with Mexico – and actions that would go against the decades-old Rio Grande Compact would hinder that duty. The 1938 Rio Grande Compact governs the distribution of water in the Rio Grande Basin.
Gorsuch said “a breach of the Compact could jeopardize the federal government’s ability to satisfy its treaty obligations to Mexico.”
Texas sued New Mexico in 2014, claiming that New Mexico farmers and pecan growers illegally pump groundwater from below Elephant Butte Dam that would otherwise flow to El Paso and West Texas. New Mexico claims that its water obligations to Texas are measured at the dam.