WASHINGTON – The unanimous Supreme Court on Monday stood in favor of Tennessee in a years-long dispute over the state’s aquaculture with neighboring Mississippi.
The Supreme Court’s first verdict, 2021-2022, came to court, claiming that Mississippi was pumping hundreds of billions of gallons of water from Tennessee’s central Claiborne aquifer on the Mississippi border.
In a decision that may impede the sharing of drinking water between other states, the nation’s highest court applies the same criteria used to resolve disputes between states that share water in the river.
“Each state has absolute authority over the land, including streams and other water beds within its borders,” the court said. “But such jurisdiction does not confer arbitrary ‘ownership or control’ of the flow of interstate water.”
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Mississippi is seeking at least $ 615 million in damages.
Cheryl Patterson, general counsel for Memphis Light, Gas and Water, said the utility was “very happy” with the decision and that it “would be a good way forward for interstate groundwater disputes.” The Mississippi Attorney General’s Office issued a statement saying it would respect the court’s opinion.
The 15-page opinion, which began in October, came relatively quickly, indicating that it was a relatively easy case for the court to decide. There was some speculation about Texas’ controversial ban on abortion after a six-week pregnancy, when the court announced its decision Monday.
But that case is still pending.
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The complex legal questions presented by the water dispute have led some to ponder some crazy hypotheticals during oral arguments in the case last month – the first since the justices returned to their court after an epidemic.
Chief Justice John Roberts had asked which state controls the herds of wild boars that move back and forth across the border. Associate Justice Stephen Breyer at one point questioned whether California would be harmed if another state conquered San Francisco.
Contribution: Memphis Commercial Appeal