Washington Law Review


Michael Wrenn


United States v. New Mexico is the first Supreme Court decision to quantify reserved water rights available for the national forests. The narrow scope accorded the implied reservation doctrine as applied to the United States' claims for water for recreational and wildlife purposes reflects recognition by the Court that the implied reservation doctrine will be limited in the face of competing claims based on state law. The Court's decision limits federal interests under the reserved rights doctrine without providing adequate protection for the water needs of the national forests. The decision also deprives the implied reservation doctrine of the flexibility which rendered it useful in balancing state and federal interests in water adjudications. This note examines the considerations that may have led the Court to limit the scope of the implied reservation doctrine and the effect the decision will have on federal water rights in national forests. The note concludes that as a result of United States v. New Mexico, congressional action is needed to insure that adequate supplies of water will be available to the national forests.

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