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Resources 2015, 4(2), 172-184; doi:10.3390/resources4020172

Groundwater Challenges of the Lower Rio Grande: A Case Study of Legal Issues in Texas and New Mexico

Department of Public and Environmental Affairs (Political Science), University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, 2420 Nicolet Drive, MAC B327, Green Bay, WI 54311, USA
Academic Editor: Dallas Blaney
Received: 23 October 2014 / Revised: 7 March 2015 / Accepted: 23 March 2015 / Published: 30 March 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Groundwater Quantity and Quality)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [184 KB, uploaded 30 March 2015]


In 1938, Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado signed the Rio Grande Compact, establishing terms of apportionment for some of the water from the Rio Grande for the three states. Following congressional approval in 1939, this compact governs water allocation in a region with a variable climate and frequent drought conditions and established the Rio Grande Compact Commission, comprised of a commissioner from each state and one from the federal government, to enforce the compact. With an increasing population and declining surface water supply, the Compact has been tested among the parties and within the states themselves. In a case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court, Texas v. New Mexico and Colorado (2013), Texas claims New Mexico is violating the Compact and Rio Grande Project Act by using water in excess of its apportionment through its allowance of diversions of surface and groundwater. The issue is further compounded by disputes within Texas over separate legal regimes for groundwater and surface water. Combined with growing scarcity issues, the allocation of water in the Lower Rio Grande presents a timely natural resource challenge. This review explores legal issues involved in the case as well as growing challenges of population growth, agricultural development needs, and water shortages. View Full-Text
Keywords: groundwater; water; Rio Grande; Texas; Compact; Supreme Court; New Mexico groundwater; water; Rio Grande; Texas; Compact; Supreme Court; New Mexico
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Wheat, E. Groundwater Challenges of the Lower Rio Grande: A Case Study of Legal Issues in Texas and New Mexico. Resources 2015, 4, 172-184.

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