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1:23 pm
Thu June 13, 2013

Unanimous: Supreme Court Supports Oklahoma in Cross Border Water Fight

The Supreme Court has unanimously rejected Texas' claim that it has a right under a 30-year-old agreement to cross the border with Oklahoma for water to serve the fast-growing Fort Worth area.

Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana signed the Red River Compact in 1978. The agreement regulates water rights in a large swathe of the four states.
Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana signed the Red River Compact in 1978. The agreement regulates water rights in a large swathe of the four states.
Credit Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The justices on Thursday upheld a lower court ruling that said Oklahoma laws intended to block Texas' water claims are valid.

The case concerns a dispute over access to southeastern Oklahoma tributaries of the Red River that separates Oklahoma and Texas.

Gov. Mary Fallin says the ruling is another victory in Oklahoma's effort to protect state water resources. She says the state has maintained all along that Oklahoma must have the ability to set its own water policy.

Oklahoma Water Resources Board executive director J.D. Strong says the decision is a victory for Oklahoma and seven mostly arid western states that stood to lose control over their limited surface water supplies.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt says the ruling has affirmed the state's sovereignty over its water, since the compact does not explicitly allow the water district to cross the border and take water from Oklahoma.

Pruitt says the decision will impact future generations. He says it's important that the state has the ability to manage its water and not be forced to give water to Texas.

Tarrant Regional Water District general manager Jim Oliver says securing additional water resources is essential to North Texas' continued growth and prosperity. He says the region's population is expected to double during the next 50 years.

Oliver says the ruling doesn't address what he says is Oklahoma's lack of water infrastructure. He says water district officials believe solutions that benefit both Texas and Oklahoma still exist and that the district will continue to explore opportunities.

The Tarrant Regional Water District serving an 11-county area in north-central Texas including Fort Worth and Arlington wants to buy 150 billion gallons of water and says the four-state Red River Compact gives it the right to do so. Arkansas and Louisiana are the other participating states and they are siding with Oklahoma.