Memphis Commercial Appeal Op-Ed: Supreme Court Turns to Science to Resolve Groundwater Dispute Between Mississippi and Tennessee

Christine Klein

Dec. 9, 2021

In an era when most Supreme Court opinions are sharply divided, recently the high court unanimously rejected Mississippi’s claim against Tennessee in a long-running dispute over the groundwater that lies beneath both states in a common aquifer.

The impacts of this case will extend far beyond Mississippi and Tennessee, as states compete with one another over limited water supplies.

When neighboring states fight over shared rivers, the law has been clear for more than a century: They can settle their differences either by negotiated agreements known as “interstate compacts” or they can ask the Supreme Court to divide up the waters through what is known as an “equitable apportionment.”

But until late November, it was not as clear how states should resolve brawls over water when it is found underground in geologic formations known as aquifers.

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