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.
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