Sporhase v. Nebraska ex rel. Douglas

458 U.S. 941 (1982)

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Sporhase v. Nebraska ex rel. Douglas

United States Supreme Court
458 U.S. 941 (1982)

  • Written by Rose VanHofwegen, JD

Facts

Joy Sporhase and others (defendants) owned contiguous tracts of land in Nebraska (plaintiff) and Colorado. A well on the Nebraska side pumped groundwater to irrigate both the Nebraska and the Colorado tracts. A Nebraska statute prohibited withdrawing groundwater and transporting it for use in an adjoining state without a permit. Generally the state would grant a permit if withdrawing the water was reasonable, consistent with the conservation and use of groundwater, and not detrimental to the public welfare. However, the statute specified that the state where the water went also had to grant reciprocal rights. Because Colorado prohibited withdrawing groundwater for use in another state, Sporhase could not have obtained a permit. Nebraska brought suit to enjoin Sporhase from transporting the water across the state line without a permit. Sporhase countered that the statute was unconstitutional on the ground that it imposed an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce. The trial court granted an injunction, and the Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed, reasoning that groundwater is not an article of commerce. Sporhase appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Stevens, J.)

Dissent (Rehnquist, J.)

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