DALLAS — An appellate court told the Tarrant Regional Water District it may proceed with a lawsuit against Oklahoma to gain access to water north of the Red River that divides Texas and Oklahoma.
The 10th U.S. District Court in Denver ruled on Monday afternoon that the North Texas district’s case to invalidate a series of Oklahoma laws that prohibit the use and transfer of water out of state can be heard in federal court in Oklahoma City.
“This case is about discriminatory restrictions on trade and unwillingness on the part of the State of Oklahoma to even talk about the possible sale or transfer of water across state lines, clearly a violation of the Interstate Commerce Clause,” Jim Oliver, general manager of the TRWD, said in a news release.
TRWD planning director Wayne Owen said he anticipates a “successful completion of the suit within a year.”
The district wants access to secure water from three spots just north of the river. Officials claim the water, which eventually flows to the Gulf of Mexico, must be captured from tributaries in Oklahoma before it gets to the river, “which is less suited for municipal water supply and requires expensive treatment,” according to the TRWD.
Last week, the city of Dallas and the North Texas Municipal Water District teamed with the TRWD to help negotiate the sale or transfer of the water to the burgeoning North Texas region.
TRWD’s Owen said the partnership provides an opportunity for the three entities to integrate systems and suppliers.
“It enables us to work together to provide water to the more proximate suppliers, as well as enable us to more effectively deliver to the more remote suppliers, as well,” Owen said. “It makes sense as energy is the most expensive variable when transporting water.”
Some projections show $2 billion to $3 billion in new pipelines and other infrastructure needed to bring the Oklahoma water to Texas. The deal signed last week calls for the utilities to share in the costs, which most likely will be financed through multiple bond sales.
The North Texas Municipal Water District projects demand for water to more than double across the region over the next 50 years. Some of the fastest-growth areas of the country are in North Texas and securing water rights will be a hotly contested issue for years to come.
The Dallas-Fort Worth area added about 162,250 new residents between July 1, 2006, and July 1, 2007, making the metroplex the fastest-growth area of the country, according to the Census Bureau.