Supreme Court Sides With Oklahoma in Tarrant v. Herrmann Water Case

  • Joe Wertz

The Supreme Court of the United States on Thursday unanimously sided with Oklahoma in Tarrant Regional Water District v. Herrmann, the state’s long-simmering fight with Texas over water in the Red River basin.

The decision was unanimous, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote the opinion for the court. Here’s an excerpt from her opinion, which is embedded above:

Three things persuade the Court that the Compact did not grant cross-border rights: the well-established principle that States do not easily cede their sovereign powers; the fact that other interstate water compacts have treated cross-border rights explicitly; and the parties’ course of dealing

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and J.D. Strong, executive director of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, praised the decision:

“After many years of legal maneuvering and saber-rattling, this should end, once and for all, Tarrant’s attempts to circumvent Oklahoma’s water management authority,” Strong said in a statement, adding that the decision was a big win outside of Oklahoma, too. “It’s also a victory for the seven mostly arid western states who sided with Oklahoma and stood to lose at least as much control over their limited surface water supplies.”

Officials at the Tarrant Regional Water District were disappointed by the high court’s decision, general manager Jim Oliver wrote in a statement to StateImpact.

“Securing additional water resources is essential to North Texas’ continued growth and prosperity and will remain one of our top priorities. The population in our service area is expected to double over the next fifty years so we will act quickly to develop new sources. The decision does not address the problem of Oklahoma’s lack of water infrastructure, and we believe solutions that benefit both Texas and Oklahoma still exist. We will continue to explore and advance those opportunities.”

Updated: 12:20 p.m. with comments from Gov. Mary Fallin and the Oklahoma Water Resources Board