Appeals Court to Hear Mississippi Water Lawsuit

November 5, 2008

A federal appeals court will hear arguments in a lawsuit that accuses the city of Memphis, Tenn., of stealing millions of gallons of Mississippi water.

U.S. District Judge Glen H. Davidson in February dismissed the $1 billion lawsuit, which was filed by Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood in 2005. It is now set to go before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans on Dec. 3.

Hood sued the city of Memphis and the Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division, accusing them of tapping into a vast supply of pure water in an aquifer under parts of Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas.

Hood believes that pumping from the aquifer has created depressions in the water table, which he said has allegedly diverted 372 billion gallons of Mississippi’s water into Tennessee since 1965. He claims Mississippi is losing millions of gallons a day.

In dismissing the lawsuit, Davidson said the state of Tennessee, and possibly Arkansas, should have been parties in the litigation. Then the proper venue, he said, would be before the U.S. Supreme Court, which handles disputes between states.

Davidson also said the water in the Memphis Sand aquifer must be “apportioned” to determine how much of the supply belongs to each state before Mississippi can get legal relief for lost water.

The Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division claims its wells go straight down and are not slanted to pull water in from Mississippi.

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