LONDON, Ky. — A special master on Nov. 5 told the U.S. Supreme Court that an aquifer under both Tennessee and Mississippi is an interstate resource and recommended that the high court dismiss Mississippi’s lawsuit against Tennessee with leave to file an amended complaint seeking equitable apportionment of the groundwater (Mississippi v. Tennessee, et al., No. 143, Orig., U.S. Sup.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court on Nov. 2 granted a conditional motion by Texas for review of a river master’s 2020 determination of water credits for New Mexico (Texas v. New Mexico, No. 65, Orig., U.S. Sup.).
SAN FRANCISCO — The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Oct. 26 ruled that the United States had not waived its sovereign immunity under the McCarran Amendment in litigation involving groundwater rights in California’s Santa Maria Valley (San Luis Obispo Coastkeeper, et al. v. U.S. Department of the Interior, et al., No. 19-16655, 9th Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 33650).
OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Oct. 6 reversed summary judgment in a case involving a water permit for a fracking operation, finding that notifying neighbors whose land abuts a source lake by publishing a notice in a low-circulation newspaper is constitutionally inadequate for due process (Betty Sue Adams Purcell, et al. v. Todd A. Parker, et al., No. 118328, Okla. Sup., 2020 Okla. LEXIS 92).
SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Supreme Court on Oct. 15 reversed a trial court’s determination that a water company’s pumping from a well interfered with two neighboring wells, finding that the trial court’s findings were insufficient (Robert B. Arave, et al. v. Pineview West Water Company, No. 20180067, Utah Sup., 2020 Utah LEXIS 181).
LOS ANGELES — California’s Imperial Irrigation District (IID) on Sept. 14 told the state Supreme Court that it should not grant review of an appellate court ruling that farmers served by the district have an interest in its water rights but don’t have water rights themselves (Michael Abatti, et al. v. Imperial Irrigation District, No. S264093, Calif. Sup.).
LOS ANGELES — An advocacy group on Sept. 9 told a California appeals court that it is not opposing a tax or fee but is instead challenging the legal propriety of an authorization of bonded indebtedness by water agencies to eventually fund a multibillion-dollar water project formerly known as the California WaterFix (Food and Water Watch and Center for Food Safety v. Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, et al., No. B297553, Calif. App., 2nd Dist., 2020 CA App. Ct. Briefs LEXIS 5224).
SALEM, Ore. — Forty-five Oregon water rights holders on Sept. 22 petitioned the state Supreme Court for a peremptory or alternative writ of mandamus directing a court to comply with state civil and evidentiary law in its adjudication of the Klamath River Basin (In Re Waters of the Klamath River Basin, No. S067998, Ore. Sup.).
CARSON CITY, Nev. — In a split decision, the Nevada Supreme Court on Sept. 17 ruled that the public trust doctrine as implemented in the state's comprehensive water statutes does not permit the reallocation of water rights that have already been adjudicated and settled under the doctrine of prior appropriation (Mineral County, et al. v. Lyon County, et al., No. 75917, Nev. Sup., 2020 Nev. LEXIS 56).
SAN FRANCISCO — The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (Metropolitan) on Sept. 11 notified a California trial court that it will appeal the court’s $44.37 million judgment in Metropolitan’s water supply charge litigation with the San Diego Water Authority (San Diego) (San Diego County Water Authority v. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, et al., No. CPF-10-610830, Calif. Super., San Francisco Co.).
New developments in the following multiplaintiff, interstate or notable water rights cases are marked in boldface type.
RENO, Nev. — A Nevada federal judge on Oct. 1 issued guidance on the types of water compensation the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District (TCID) is liable for to settle its 20-year debt for wrongful diversion of water from the Truckee River (United States v. Truckee-Carson Irrigation District, et al., No. 95-757, D. Nev., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 181643).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Texas Solicitor General Kyle D. Hawkins on Oct. 5 faced questions by the eight U.S. Supreme Court justices during a virtual hearing about why the court should find that a court-appointed river master's decision on giving New Mexico credits for evaporated reservoir water violated the Rio Grande Compact among the two states and was contrary to the formulas laid out in the river master's manual (Texas v. New Mexico, et al., No. 141, Original, U.S. Sup.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 5 said in its first orders list of the new term that arguments in an interstate water dispute between Florida and Georgia “are set for oral argument in due course” (Florida v. Georgia, No. 142, Original, U.S. Sup.).
GREAT FALLS, Mont. — A Montana federal judge on Sept. 25 declared that William Perry Pendley has unlawfully served as acting director of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for the past 425 days and wants a list of what actions by Pendley need to be set aside (Steve Bullock, et al. v. U.S. Bureau of Land Management, et al., No. 20-62, D. Mont., Great Falls Div., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 177029).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — An Indian tribe cannot pursue money damages from the United States for alleged breaches of fiduciary duties owed to the tribe for management of its trust lands along the Colorado River in the California desert because the tribe filed the claims too late and failed to state valid claims, a U.S. Court of Federal Claims judge determined Sept. 29 in dismissing the tribe's action (Chemehuevi Indian Tribe v. United States, No. 16-492L, Fed. Clms., 2020 U.S. Claims LEXIS 1867).
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — One week before the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments in the case, the special master in the interstate water case between Texas and New Mexico and Colorado on Sept. 29 amended his trial management schedule and set a trial for July or August 2021 (Texas v. New Mexico, et al., No. 141, Original, U.S. Sup.).
DENVER — Three Native American tribes still possess their aboriginal water rights in the Jemez River in New Mexico because Spain never acted affirmatively to extinguish the rights when it held sovereignty over the land in the 1500s, a divided 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel held Sept. 29 in reversing a federal court's ruling on interlocutory appeal (United States, et al. v. Tom Abousleman, et al., Nos. 18-2164, 18-2167, 10th Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 30918).
MEDFORD, Ore. — An Oregon federal judge on Sept. 25 adopted in full a magistrate judge's recommendation and dismissed consolidated water rights cases filed by farmers and water districts in the Klamath Basin for failure to join two Indian tribes that are required parties but cannot be added to the dispute due to their sovereign immunity (Klamath Irrigation District, et al. v. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, et al., Nos. 19-451 and 19-531, D. Ore., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 177212).
PHOENIX — Two water districts in Arizona are not entitled to dismissal of an Indian tribe's suit against them because the issues are not the same as those being decided in a state court water rights adjudication, but the tribe must add the United States as a defendant due to its contracts with the districts, a federal judge ruled Sept. 14 (Ak-Chin Indian Community v. Maricopa-Stanfield Irrigation & Drainage District, et al., No. 20-489, D. Ariz., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 167852).