AUSTIN – Attorney General Ken Paxton said the powerful oral arguments his office presented today before the U.S. Supreme Court should result in a favorable decision for Texas in its years-long dispute with New Mexico over water rights to the Rio Grande River. New Mexico’s increasing water use and groundwater pumping below Elephant Butte Reservoir deprives Texas of water apportioned to it under the 1938 Rio Grande Compact.
“New Mexico’s illegal actions in taking Rio Grande Project water intended for use in Texas violates the Rio Grande Compact, depriving our state of the water it is legally entitled,” Attorney General Paxton said. “The Rio Grande plays an integral part in the water supply for Texas’ border regions and farmers, and the Supreme Court should rule in favor of protecting Texas’ rights.”
Texas first filed a complaint with the Supreme Court in 2013, requesting that New Mexico stop pumping groundwater along the border so that 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.
“New Mexico, through its agents or subdivisions, may not divert or intercept water it is required to deliver pursuant to the 1938 Compact to Elephant Butte Reservoir,” the special master wrote. “That water has been committed by compact to the Rio Grande Project for delivery to Texas, Mexico, and lower New Mexico, and that dedication takes priority over all other appropriations granted by New Mexico.”
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 Compact because New Mexico has authorized and permitted more than 3,000 wells near the Rio Grande in New Mexico.