The U.S. Justice Department is recommending the U.S. Supreme Court take up a case involving the controversy over Oklahoma's refusal to allow water sales to a north Texas water district.
The U.S. solicitor general, the administration's advocate before the Supreme Court, filed a legal opinion Friday stating the high court should review the case.
The justices will decide whether to review the case involving Tarrant Regional Water District and the Oklahoma Water Resources Board.
The Tarrant water district claims the state's highly restrictive laws regarding interstate water sales violate the U.S. Constitution and a congressionally approved water compact among four states.
“This is a significant development and an important step in resolving the legal questions concerning our rights to water under the Red River Compact,” Jim Oliver, general manager of the Tarrant Regional Water District, said in a statement.
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt could not be reached for comment late Friday.
The Tarrant Regional Water District supplies water to 1.7 million customers in the Fort Worth area. The water district filed a federal court lawsuit in an effort to overturn Oklahoma laws that place restrictions on out-of-state water sales.
Both an Oklahoma district court judge and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the water district's arguments that Oklahoma laws improperly interfere with interstate commerce.
The Tarrant Regional Water District wants to buy water from Oklahoma streams before they empty into the Red River that separates Oklahoma from Texas.
Once water enters the Red River, it becomes too salty to drink without expensive treatment.
Attorneys for the water district in their appeal to the Supreme Court said judges on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals incorrectly interpreted the Red River Compact that governs the apportionment of stream water between Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana.