New Mexico Supreme Court Releases Bounds v. State Decision
Court ruled that the domestic well statute did not violate the due process clause of the constitution
The Supreme Court of New Mexico released the long-awaited decision in Bounds v. State of New Mexico on July 25, 2013. Water Systems and 16 state associations and water well related companies filed a friend of court brief in the case, supporting the position of the state of New Mexico. The court agreed with all of the arguments in the Water Systems Council brief.
Bounds challenged the domestic well statute in New Mexico, which requires the state engineer to grant a permit for a domestic well, without any investigation, whenever a permit is requested. In a unanimous decision, the court ruled that the domestic well statute did not violate the prior appropriation doctrine and did not violate the due process clause of the New Mexico Constitution. In summary, the prior appropriation doctrine gives the senior water user “the better right” but does not dictate how uses are permitted. Since no property right has been infringed upon by the domestic well statute, no due process rights were involved.
The case has received nationwide attention due to the importance of so-called “exempt wells” and the controversy surrounding the topic. Although binding only in New Mexico, the decision could influence water policy around the country.
Water Systems Council, represented by Jesse J. Richardson Jr. and Tiffany Dowell, worked closely with the New Mexico Ground Water Assn. (NMGWA) and its attorney, Jolene McCaleb in crafting the brief. In addition, the NMGWA has been proactive in working with the state legislature and regulators within the state, also contributing to the success of the water well industry in New Mexico.