SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – The Supreme Court has issued a decision on what could be a precedent-setting water rights case, basically saying, “you use it or lose it.” The case stemmed from a property in Sierra County near what used to be the railroad town of Cutter, New Mexico.

The water was originally used to service steam locomotives. When the town disappeared, the water use drastically dropped and was used only for livestock.


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Tony Romero bought the land in the 1990s with the intent of marketing the water rights but the courts ruled that since a majority of the water went unused for so many years, part of the water rights were forfeited.

Romero challenged that, but the high court sided with the lower courts, saying unused water needs to benefit the greater good and be given back to the people. The difference is about 128 million gallons of water.