Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III praised the decision. Noted the Chief: We decline to decide whether Mississippi should be granted such leave, because the State has never sought it. 2022 TIME USA, LLC. Wyoming v. Colorado, 259 U. S., at 466. The Aquifer underlies more than just Memphis, stretching beneath eight states in total, including Mississippi. Note, however, that his decision to write in this case was likely made before he was aware the S.B.8 cases would be on the Court's plate. We now have some finality. 7.22.2022 8:45 AM, Steven Greenhut Instead, Mississippi brought tort claims. ", More:Supreme Court returns to the courtroom for first time since COVID-19 pandemic. The case, which yieldedthe first decisionof 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 Aquiferlocated under Mississippi's borders. You have reached your limit of 4 free articles. States may now seek equitable apportionment of interstate aquifers from the Supreme Court assuming they can meet the legal requirements to do so. It has also been applied to disputes over interstate river basins, such as the recent Florida v. Georgia decision from 2018, and to a case involving anadromous fish that travel down a river through several states. In November of 2020, the Special Master, Judge Eugene E. Siler, Jr., recommended that the Supreme Court dismiss Mississippis complaint with leave to amend. The trial court dismissed the case for failing to join Tennessee as an indispensable party and the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed. In this case, Mississippi's objections are the more significant, because Mississippi objected to the Special Master's conclusion that groundwater is subject to equitable apportionment, under which the Court "allocates rights to a disputed interstate water resource" that is not governed by statute, interstate compact, or prior appropriation. Mississippis absolute ownership argument would allow an upstream state to completely cut off flow to a downstream state, which would be contrary to the equitable apportionment doctrine. Because he found the Aquifer an interstate water resource, he concluded that equitable apportionment was the only available remedy. Surf and Turf: How Seaweed Helps Cows Become Better Climate Citizens, How We Can Learn to Live with COVID-19 After Vaccinations. Given the number of interstate water disputes around the country, this is an important decision and could impact future groundwater disputes between states. Subscribe to Here's the Deal, our politics newsletter. Beneath Memphis sits the Middle Claiborne Aquifer (the Aquifer), which has provided Memphis with drinking water for well over 100 years. Thus, we have "consistently denied" the proposition that a State may exercise exclusive ownership or control of interstate "waters flowing within her boundaries." The Court turned its analysis to whether equitable apportionment of the Middle Claiborne Aquifer would be sufficiently similar to past applications to warrant the same treatment. The Court found that it was sufficiently similar. We see things differently, Roberts wrote. 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. allow an upstream State to completely cut off flow to a downstream one, a result contrary to our equitable apportionment jurisprudence. The Chief Justice discussed the doctrine of equitable apportionment, and its guiding principle that States have an equal right to make reasonable use of a shared water resource. He noted that the doctrine has been applied to interstate rivers and streams for decades. The Special Master will then offer the Court a recommendation of how to rule in the case, which the Court may adopt or reject.). The complicated legal questions presented by the water dispute led the justices to contemplate some unusual hypotheticals duringoral argument in the case last month the first since the justices returned to theircourtroom since the pandemic. This would have been a fair assumption when he was the swing justice, but that no longer appears to be the case. The Court also noted that to the extent theTarrant case stands for the proposition that one state may not enter another to take water absent an express agreement, that is not at issue in the instant case. REUTERS/Tom Brenner/File Photo, By Suman Naishadham, Matthew Daly, Associated Press. In the lawsuit, Mississippi rejected any equitable apportionment solution, which is the normal, recognized way for handling water disputes between states. FILE - In this Oct. 18, 2021 photo, the Supreme Court is seen in Washington. The Court agreed that each state has full jurisdiction over the lands within its borders, including the beds of streams of and other waters. That does not, however, confer unfettered ownership or control of the flowing interstate waters themselves. Although the Courts past cases have involved streams and rivers, it saw no basis for a different result in the context of the Aquifer. Ever since, water pumped from the aquifer has provided Memphis with an abundant supply of clean, affordable drinking water. Cheryl Patterson, general counsel forMemphis 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 Court held it need not decide this issue, because Mississippi did not seek leave to file such an amended complaint.