Supreme Court will hear Mississippi-Tennessee groundwater dispute case

September 9, 2020

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear for the first time a lawsuit involving the use and distribution of groundwater reserves that lie beneath multiple state boundaries.

Mississippi claims the intense pumping of more than 140 million gallons a day by the City of Memphis, Tennessee, is drawing groundwater that belongs to Mississippi. Wells owned by Memphis have created “cones of depression” in the water table that suck water across state lines into Tennessee according to the filing which estimates 252 billion gallons have been “forcibly” taken since 1985.

The aquifer has been the source of numerous lawsuits over the past 15 years, although this is the first case to be heard by the Supreme Court. A decision on the case is set to come in the court’s next term.

NGWA will continue to follow the case developments.

The Association covered the subject at the 2008 Groundwater Summit in Memphis, with a session titled “Groundwater Resources and Competition: Mississippi, Arkansas, and Tennessee” that featured eight speakers who gave presentations.