Monday, the Supreme Court of the United States heard oral argument in the case, Mississippi v. Tennessee, a dispute over Memphis Light, Gas & Water’s syphoning more than 400 billion gallons of water from Mississippi groundwater for their own use and sale.
“At its core, this case is about state sovereignty,” said Attorney General Lynn Fitch. “Our Tennessee neighbors have pumped billions of gallons of groundwater out of Mississippi and across the border for their own profit. Just as fences make good neighbors, a strong decision by the Court that this violates basic principles of state sovereignty will serve Mississippi and all other states well.”
Since approximately 1985, about one-fifth of the water Memphis Light, Gas & Water sold has come from Mississippi’s groundwater. The volume is so substantial that it has caused a cone of depression in DeSoto County and put Mississippians’ own water at risk of degradation. Mississippi first brought suit in 2005.
In 2015, the Court appointed a Special Master, the Honorable Eugene Siler, Jr., to consider underlying issues of fact and law in this case. In November 2020, Judge Siler reported to the Court, recommending that the appropriate remedy would be an equitable apportionment of the water in the Middle Claiborne Aquifer. Both Mississippi and Tennessee filed their exceptions to the Special Master’s report and the Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments in this case of original jurisdiction.
Deputy Solicitor General John Coghlan argued the case on behalf of the State of Mississippi.