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Opinion

April 23, 2013

State should control water

NORMAN — The sprawling growth of north Texas residential communities can’t continue without additional sources of cheap, fresh water. For years the thirsty communities north of Fort Worth and Dallas have coveted the fresh water that flows in southeastern Oklahoma.

Under a 30-plus-year-old agreement, four states have a right to some excess water that ends up in the Red River. But whether Texas can take it directly from the Oklahoma creeks and rivers as before it hits the Red River and turns salty is in dispute. Only Texas is asking but Arkansas and Louisiana could be bound by whatever the court rules.

That dispute will play out in the U.S. Supreme Court this week. A decision is expected before the court recesses this summer. Lower courts have upheld Oklahoma’s rights to control the water within its borders.

Oklahoma was able to put off the issue for several years. First, a statewide water needs study was done. Second, lawmakers and Native American tribes got involved, further stalling the debate.

The 1980 agreement doesn’t specifically address one state taking its allotment before it reaches their borders. Lawyers for Oklahoma interests argue that it should be a given: States only have access to water within their boundaries unless otherwise specified.

Allowing one state access to water inside another state’s borders would open up an entire new area of water law. A group of law professors, the tribes and state officials are hoping to make that point this week. We hope the high court gets it.

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