After Supreme Court Water Ruling, What’s Next for Texas?

Sarah Tran, law professor at SMU's Dedman School of Law, talks about what Texas may do after the a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling against the state regarding accessing water from Oklahoma.

By Mose Buchele

On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a major case pitting the water needs of North Texas against its northern neighbor. At issue was Texas’ ability to access water from the Red River in Oklahoma.

The Tarrant Regional Water District serves 11 counties in fast-growing North Texas, including the city of Fort Worth. It argued that the state is due that water under an interstate water sharing agreement. Because it was not flowing downstream, Texas had the right to go upstream, into Oklahoma, to get it.

Oklahoma passed laws banning that from happening.  So, six years ago, the water district sued. It said the ban violated a water compact agreed to by the states.

This week the Supreme Court sided with Oklahoma, saying that state’s laws trump the interstate compact.  Sarah Tran is a law professor at Southern Methodist University who calls the ruling a win for advocates of state sovereignty. She says Texas will have to go “back to the drawing board” to get access to the water.

So what does this mean for the future of water in North Texas?

“Texas has the option of trying to negotiate with Oklahoma.” Tran says. “Its going to have to pay a lot more. Or it’s going to have to think about ways of conservation or desalinization. Basically, Texas’s costs are going to rise.”...