United States v. Nevada
Annotate this Case
412 U.S. 534 (1973)
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U.S. Supreme Court
United States v. Nevada, 412 U.S. 534 (1973)
United States v. Nevada
No. 59, Orig.
Argued April 16, 1973
Decided June 11, 1973
412 U.S. 534
The United States asks leave to file a bill of complaint against California and Nevada seeking a declaration of the respective rights of the parties in the Truckee River, which flows through part of California into Nevada, terminating in Pyramid Lake. The complaint states that the United States created a reservation in 1859 for the Paiute Indian Tribe that included Pyramid Lake, and that the lake level has declined since 1906 due chiefly to upstream uses and diversions, making it imperative that the Government's prior right to sufficient water to maintain the lake be judicially declared. By decree entered in 1944, in United States v. Orr Water Ditch Co., the Government was authorized to divert Truckee River water for a reclamation project upstream from Pyramid Lake, and its prior right was declared to sufficient Truckee River water to irrigate certain bottom land and bench land on the Pyramid Lake Reservation. The defendant States have made a compact, which is the subject of bills pending in Congress, respecting their shares of Truckee River water.
Held: The motion to file the bill of complaint is denied without prejudice to refiling it if the posture of the litigation should change in a manner that presents a more substantial basis for the exercise of original jurisdiction. Pp. 412 U. S. 537-540.
(a) There being no controversy between California and Nevada, the dispute is between the United States and two States, over which the Court has original, but not exclusive, jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1251(b)(2). P. 412 U. S. 537.
(b) The Court seeks to exercise its original jurisdiction sparingly, especially where the plaintiff has another adequate forum in which to settle his claim. P. 412 U. S. 538.
(c) The disputes over the Orr Water Ditch decree and the existence of prior water rights concerning the Pyramid Lake Reservation involve competing claims within Nevada, over which the District Court has jurisdiction. Any possible dispute between the United States and California respecting Pyramid Lake water rights is remote, and any dispute with California concerning water
rights in that State can be settled in the lower federal courts in California. Pp. 412 U. S. 538-540.