New Mexico gets water victory over Texas at U.S. Supreme Court — The #SantaFe New Mexican

Pecos River at the High Bridge – upstream view. Photo credit: USGS

From The Santa Fe New Mexican (Phil Casaus):

On Monday, the Supreme Court said a river master overseeing the Pecos River compact between the two states correctly decided New Mexico should receive credit for floodwater it stored for Texas after Tropical Storm Odile dropped significant amounts of rainfall into the Pecos River Basin in 2014.

Some of the water had evaporated while in storage by the time Texas was ready to receive it, prompting that state to claim New Mexico failed to meet its obligations. The river master granted New Mexico delivery credits in 2018.

Texas challenged that decision and asked the Supreme Court to review the case.

“The question presented is straightforward: Under the Pecos River compact, does New Mexico receive delivery credit for the evaporated water even though that water was not delivered to Texas? The answer is yes,” wrote Justice Brett Kavanaugh in delivering the opinion of the court.

The Pecos River, which begins east of Santa Fe at the base of the Sangre de Cristos and runs through Eastern New Mexico, is used by irrigators and cities in both states and is the subject of a 1949 compact.

Critical to the case, Kavanaugh wrote, was an email between Texas’ Pecos River commissioner, in which he asked his New Mexico counterpart to hold Texas’ portion of the flow until it could be utilized at Red Bluff Reservoir on the Texas side of the border south of Carlsbad.

New Mexico agreed, but reminded Texas the water belonged to that state and would have been released downstream if not for the request.

New Mexico, Kavanaugh wrote, “also added (correctly as it turns out) the [e]vaporative losses … should be borne by Texas.”

“The text … and the record evidence of the States’ correspondence establish that New Mexico is entitled to delivery credit for the water that evaporated while New Mexico was storing the water at Texas’ request,” the justice wrote.

D’Antonio said New Mexico has a credit of about 166,000 acre-feet under the Pecos compact. That includes the 16,000 acre-feet that were in play in Monday’s case.

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