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Oklahoma, Texas in legal battle over Red River water

April 17, 2013
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Red River
A 1980 agreement allocated portions of the Red River water and water from its tributaries to Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas.

The U.S. Supreme Court is to hear oral arguments from Oklahoma City and a Texas water district about their dispute over the use of southeast Oklahoma water, News OK reported.

According to the Tarrant Regional Water District in Texas, it is entitled to draw water that lies within Oklahoma boundaries under an agreement dating back to 1980 and approved by Congress. However, Oklahoma has claimed that it has exclusive authority over the use of water running through its territory. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the Tarrant Regional Water District, Oklahoma City might face a challenging time to secure water supply amid drought problems, the news source noted. The 1980 agreement allocated portions of the Red River water and water from its tributaries to Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas.

In their legal documents submitted to the Supreme Court, Oklahoma City lawyers claimed that the water from southeastern Oklahoma was of critical importance to its municipal water supply and that the Texas water district was trying to completely overthrow the foundations of regional water management by asserting that north Texas needed the access to water supply more than Oklahoma did. The legal arguments also stated that the city required more water and noted its conservation efforts in imposing outdoor watering restrictions.

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According to its website, Tarrant water district is the provider of water to 1.7 million people in a number of cities, such as Arlington and Fort Worth. By comparison, Oklahoma City caters for cities in the central part of the state, with a population of up to 1.3 million people.

Oklahoma City owns long-standing permits to use water from the Kiamichi and Muddy Boggy rivers, Red River tributaries, with water being pumped through the Atoka pipeline and delivered to consumers in central Oklahoma over the past five decades. Pumping more water from the Kiamichi would come close to meeting the increased demand of the city by 2060, as projected in a 2009 study. The application for access to more water is involved in a separate lawsuit over tribal water rights, News OK pointed out.

Meanwhile, the Texas water district has argued that Oklahoma was claiming water that it did not actually use. Tarrant water district, which represents 11 counties in North Texas, explained that the region was in dire need of more water supply because of its growing population. By 2030 the population of North Texas is expected to reach nine million, up from five million in 2000, according to InfoZine website.

Linda Christie, director of community and government relations at the water district, commented that the water district was actually hoping for an agreement between the four states that are entitled to use Red River water. All Texas wants is to get the agreed 25 percent of the water, she stated. Currently it takes about 16 percent, meaning that the rest should be taken from Oklahoma's share.
 

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