Attorney General Ken Paxton today applauded the U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling that allows the U.S. Interior Department to intervene in Texas’ years-long dispute with New Mexico over water rights to the Rio Grande to assert essentially the same claims that Texas has raised and to do so under the congressionally-approved 1938 Rio Grande Compact. The Court held that the United States may bring claims against New Mexico because it has “a legal responsibility to deliver a certain amount of water to Texas.”
“The Rio Grande plays an integral role in the water supply for Texas’ border regions and farmers, and New Mexico’s illegal actions have deprived Texans of this vital resource,” Attorney General Paxton said. “I am pleased the Supreme Court delivered an opinion that bolsters our case against New Mexico for taking water from Texas in violation of the Rio Grande Compact.”
The Rio Grande Compact apportions the waters of the Rio Grande among Texas, New Mexico and Colorado. Texas is deprived of water apportioned to it by the agreement because New Mexico has authorized and permitted thousands of wells near the Rio Grande in New Mexico.
In January, Attorney General Paxton’s office argued before the Supreme Court in favor of allowing the Interior Department to intervene in Texas’ case since the federal government owns the Rio Grande Project, which regulates river flow and water rights, including treaty obligations to Mexico for Rio Grande water.
Texas first filed a complaint with the Supreme Court in 2013, requesting that New Mexico stop pumping groundwater below the Elephant Butte Reservoir along the border so more of the river could flow south to farmers and residents in El Paso. Last year, a special master appointed by the high court issued a draft report rejecting New Mexico’s claim that its state water appropriation law supersedes the Rio Grande Compact over the water it diverts from Texas.