State, Texas Attorneys Tell Court New Mexico Illegally Hoards Water

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WASHINGTON (AP) - Attorneys for Texas and Oklahoma told the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday that New Mexico is illegally hoarding water that communities in the High Plains desperately need for agriculture and municipal use.

Texas and Oklahoma contend New Mexico is violating the terms of a 1952 agreement involving the storage and use of waters from the Canadian River, which flows from northeastern New Mexico into Texas and Oklahoma.

At issue is whether New Mexico is allowed to store waters originating north of Conchas Dam in the Ute Reservoir near Tucumcari, N.M., in excess of 200,000 acre feet.

Texas and Oklahoma contend the 1952 agreement restricts storage in the Ute Reservoir to 200,000 acre feet. But New Mexico argues that it can exceed the limit if the waters originate north of the Conchas Dam, because the use of those waters is not restricted in the compact.

In a brief submitted to the court, Texas said New Mexico has maintained over 246,000 acre feet in Ute Reservoir. And while New Mexico is largely using the reservoir for recreation, communities downstream rely on those water supplies for farming, municipal and industrial needs, Texas attorneys say.

Because the Ogallala aquifer beneath porions of the three states is being pumped faster than it can be recharged, the Canadian River is increasingly important to nearly half a million people on the Texas High Plains, Paul Elliott, an assistant attorney general of Texas, told the court.

Lake Meredith, the major reservoir in Texas to capture the Canadian River waters, supplies drinking water to approximately 460,000 people in Texas, including Amarillo, Lubbock and Plainview.

``The cities that receive water from Lake Meredith can't rely on the Ogallala; it is being depleted and they're got to have this Canadian River water,'' Elliott said after the hearing.

According to Texas Attorney General Dan Morales, the Ogallala is being pumped at a rate 10 times faster than its recharge and will be reduced by two-thirds by the year 2030. …