A Dynamic Legal Case Study: Mississippi v. Tennessee - The Interstate Dispute Over Groundwater Resources

Author(s): Janasie, C.

Water is one of the most essential natural resources globally, nationally, and locally. In the United States, access to and management of water resources are becoming more deliberated, and often contested, as states strive for stakes in this shared natural resource. As the legal framework looks to respond to evolving water issues, interstate disputes are in the forefront as pending United States Supreme Court cases. This talk will discuss existing water laws and policies throughout the continental United States and distinguish between regulation of surface water and groundwater. When people think of water, images of surface water like the Mississippi River come to mind, but a large amount of the water we use on a day-to-day basis is groundwater. The role of states in managing water resources, and especially groundwater, is heating up as consumption and science advance. While states can, and do, work together to share interstate water resources, the Supreme Court of the United States must preside over cases where states disagree. This talk will provide a general overview of water law and the interstate water disputes currently before the Supreme Court, notably Mississippi v. Tennessee. While interstate water disputes are common, Mississippi v. Tennessee is a significant legal case because the Supreme Court has never before decided a state dispute over groundwater. This talk will provide an overview of each state’s argument and how interstate water disputes have traditionally been treated by the Supreme Court. In conclusion, the talk will discuss the relevance of pending litigation, as well as thoughts on the future of water law.

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