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Sean D. Reyes
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AG Reyes Leads Amicus Brief to Protect State Sovereignty Regarding Water Rights

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – Attorney General Sean D. Reyes led an amicus brief to the Supreme Court of the United States in Texas v. New Mexico. The case involves a proposed resolution of a dispute over water rights between several states, which the federal government is attempting to block. 

In 2014, Texas sued New Mexico and Colorado claiming that New Mexico had breached the 1939 Rio Grande Compact, which apportions water from the Rio Grande River among the three states. Through mediation, the states were able to largely resolve their dispute and submitted a proposed consent decree to the Special Master, who recommended its approval. The United States, however, intervened in the case and opposed the consent decree. The United States argues the federal government has authority to interpret and enforce the Compact terms and has a role in determining how the state parties comply with the terms of the Compact because some of the water apportioned by the Compact is distributed through a federal water project. 

Utah’s brief argues that the United States’ attempt to block the consent decree encroaches on the compacting state’s sovereign authority to form, interpret, and enforce their interstate compact and that the United States’ federal water project does not expand its limited role in this interstate water compact dispute.  

The States further contend that the federal government is not without recourse in water compact disputes. They explain that if the United States has a claim regarding water apportioned to a federal water project, the United States, like all other water rights holders, may turn to state courts to protect its rights. 

Joining Utah on this brief are the States of Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wyoming.

Read the brief here.