Supreme Court’s First Opinion in an Argued Case Resolves Water Dispute Between Mississippi and Tennessee
The Supreme Court issued its first opinion in an argued case this morning, and it was not in one of the Texas S.B. 8 cases, as some had speculated or hoped. Instead, today’s rare November opinion concerned water. Chief Justice Roberts wrote for the Court in Mississippi v. Tennessee, resolving a water dispute between two states. Appropriately enough, Mississippi v. Tennessee was the first case argued this term, and Chief Justice Roberts appears to have taken over for the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the fastest out of the gate. (He’s the only other justice to have written a November opinion in an argued case since OT2014.)
While this was not a high-profile case, it is potentially important, as it brought greater clarity to the rights states have over the groundwater underneath their lands. Water disputes between states are rather common and often quite serious. (As they say, whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting.) In addition, as climate change alters precipitation patterns, changes in water availability could increase the importance of water rights, and increase water disputes as the assumptions upon which past water policies and agreements were made no longer apply (a topic I addressed here and here).
Here’s how Chief Justice Roberts summarized the dispute in Mississippi v. Tennessee:
The City of Memphis sits on the banks of the Mississippi River in the southwest corner of Tennessee. Arkansas marks the City’s western border, and Mississippi its southern. Hundreds of feet beneath Memphis lies one of the City’s most valuable resources: the Middle Claiborne Aquifer. Workers discovered the aquifer in 1886 while drilling a well for the Bohlen-Huse Ice Company. Ever since, water pumped from the aquifer has provided Memphis with an abundant supply of clean, affordable drinking water.
The Middle Claiborne Aquifer underlies other States too, including Mississippi. This case began in 2014 when Mississippi invoked our original jurisdiction and sought leave to file a bill of complaint against Tennessee. Mississippi alleges th
Article from Reason.com