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US Supreme Court backs Tennessee in water rights dispute with Mississippi

12:16  23 november  2021
12:16  23 november  2021 Source:   usatoday.com

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WASHINGTON – A unanimous Supreme Court sided with Tennessee on Monday in a years long dispute over an aquifer the state shares with neighboring Mississippi.

The case, which yielded the first decision of the Supreme Court's 2021-2022 term, came to the court when Mississippi claimed Tennessee was pumping hundreds of billions of gallons of water from the Middle Claiborne Aquifer located under Mississippi's borders.

In a decision that could have ramifications for the allocation of drinking water supplies between other states, the nation's highest court applied the same standard it uses to resolve disputes between states that share water flowing in a river.

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"It is certainly true that 'each state has full jurisdiction over the lands within its borders, including the beds of streams and other waters,'" the court said. "But such jurisdiction does not confer unfettered 'ownership or control' of flowing interstate waters themselves."

The Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on November 5, 2021. © DANIEL SLIM, AFP via Getty Images The Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on November 5, 2021.

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Mississippi had sought at least $615 million in damages.

Cheryl Patterson, general counsel for Memphis Light, Gas and Water, said the utility is "extremely pleased" with the decision and that it "charts a sound path for interstate groundwater disputes going forward." The Mississippi attorney general's office issued a one-sentence statement saying it would respect the court's opinion.

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The 15-page opinion came relatively quickly in the term that began in October, signaling it was a relatively easy case for the court to decide. When the court announced late last week it would issue an opinion on Monday there was some speculation it was readying its ruling on Texas' controversial ban on abortion after six weeks of pregnancy.

But that case is still pending.

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The complicated legal questions presented by the water dispute led the justices to contemplate some unusual hypotheticals during oral argument in the case last month – the first since the justices returned to their courtroom since the pandemic.

Chief Justice John Roberts had asked which state would have control of a herd of wild horses crossing back and forth over a border. Associate Justice Stephen Breyer at one point questioned whether California would be harmed if another state captured some of San Francisco's fog for itself.

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Contributing: Memphis Commercial Appeal

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Supreme Court backs Tennessee in water rights dispute with Mississippi

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usr: 2
This is interesting!