To Comfort The Afflicted
And Afflict The Comfortable

To Comfort The Afflicted And Afflict The Comfortable

Sunday, October 2, 2022


Water Wars



This spring, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether or not Texas can legally come across the Red River and take Kiamichi River Basin water from take-outs inside Oklahoma.

Another issue to be ruled on is what the Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma attorney generals – three out of the four states in the federal Red River Compact – have told the nine Supreme Court Justices: “Forced removal of large water quantities by Texas from inside southeast Oklahoma is … wrong and harmful in our collective opinions and interests.”

The U.S. Supreme Court will decide these questions by very narrow legal examinations. The court can then rule several ways: all or partially for Oklahoma and its supporting states of Arkansas and Louisiana; rule for Texas claims or send [remand] the case back to lower federal court for trial with much broader scope.

I suggest viewing this as a continuing chapter on man’s power and greed, attempting to cause great harm, very similar to that detailed in the history book And Still The Waters Run by Angie Debo.

Dr. Angie Debo, Oklahoma’s greatest historian, wrote about the betrayal of the Five Civilized Tribes and how they were systematically deprived of lands and resources in eastern and southeastern Oklahoma that were granted to them.

One reviewer said her book “advanced a crushing analysis of the corruption, moral depravity and criminal activity that underlay white administration and execution of the allotment policy.”

Remember the University of Oklahoma refused to publish her book and Debo was barred from teaching in Oklahoma despite being an internationally recognized historian. Sound familiar! Read on.

Oklahomans and Texans for years have read reputable reporters’ coverage, heard/watched on TV’s “so-called” balanced programs from a parade of reporters, attorneys, former Oklahoma governors and other elected officials – no doubt some influenced by Texas lobbyists, plus prime-time sell-your-water commercials by Texans.

All above voicing opinions that Oklahoma has “available surplus water to sell to north Texas.”

Yet not covered by media were any science/fact-based opinions from qualified hydro-geologists, hydrologists, water chemists, climatologists or down-stream out-of-state agriculture, fish and wildlife, streams and lakes recreation experts.

Nor was there a single computer modeling of the Red River’s numerous legal flow obligations. Add omissions of the moral reality of water being lifegiving and therefore priceless.

Maybe a lower federal court’s full-blown trial would be best!

Scary Fact: Oklahoma has 11,711 attorneys, 2,532 civil engineers and one – one! – hydro-geologist, according to the American Bar Association, the Oklahoma licensing agency for civil engineers and the Oklahoma Geological Survey.

History repeats itself! Once again, analysis [by science] and moral reasoning was barred from public consideration in Oklahoma’s battle over exploitation of Southeast Oklahoma’s waters.

And don’t forget, the majority of the U.S. Supreme Court’s worst past decisions were made in favor of the rich and powerful; i.e., Citizens United and the 1800s decisions supporting slavery.

Keep your fingers crossed.

Robert Jackman is a Tulsa geologist widely regarded as an expert on Oklahoma water. His essays appear occasionally in The Oklahoma Observer.


Arnold Hamilton
Arnold Hamilton
Arnold Hamilton became editor of The Observer in September 2006. Previously, he served nearly two decades as the Dallas Morning News’ Oklahoma Bureau chief. He also covered government and politics for the San Jose Mercury News, the Dallas Times Herald, the Tulsa Tribune and the Oklahoma Journal.