Mid-South News
7:47 am
Thu February 21, 2008

Mississippi Files Intent to Appeal Water Case

Memphis, TN – The water dispute between Mississippi and MLGW and the City of Memphis took yet another turn late Friday. Mississippi has appealed a federal circuit judge's decision dismissing the case, sending it to the Circuit Court of Appeals. Still, it may land in the US Supreme Court. What might that mean to MLGW and the citizens who depend on it for water?

Mississippi and DeSoto County originally filed suit against MLGW and the city of Memphis in 2005. They claim that Memphis is knowingly taking more than its fair share of water from the DeSoto County part of the aquifer, thus causing several cone-like depressions that cause the water to flow backwards into Memphis.

Earlier this month, Federal District Judge Glen Davidson dismissed the case - against Memphis, Gas, Light and Water and the City of Memphis without prejudice - saying that Tennessee must be included in the lawsuit by Mississippi. It's a matter of apportionment, said Judge Davidson, and several states are involved.

Memphians have pulled their pristine water from the Sparta Aquifer since the 1880's. The aquifer spans several states, Mississippi, Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Mississippi filed a notice of appeal to the Northern District of Mississippi Court of Appeals. They're basically saying that they plan to appeal the decision rendered by Judge Glen Davidson to keep it from turning into a interstate issue of water apportionment - keeping it from going to the US Supreme Court.

If Judge Davidson's decision is reversed, then the Northern District Court in Oxford will hear the case. The question remains, whose water is it?

Randy Gentry, Director of the Southeast Water Resources Institute, says this is a precedent setting case because in the east, water allocation has been based upon riparian rights.

Gentry if the appeal is rejected, then the case will be heard in the US Supreme Court.

Gentry said it's unlikely that a special master would force Memphis to pull its water from the Mississippi River, but it's impossible to know how the Supreme Court would rule, and then if a special master is appointed, there's no telling how the aquifer will be shared.