The legal battle over the management of the Rio Grande has created a new development on Friday as a judge appointed to be the special master of the case ruled that the proposed plan for the river be made public.

The order forces the federal government, which has been trying to keep the proposed settlement under wraps for years now, to publicly release the proposal and associated briefs and exhibits as a way for federal lawyers to be able to prepare for an upcoming meeting on the matter, according to the Associated Press.

Judge Michael Melloy, the special master assigned to the case, has pushed the order to publicly reveal the information despite the Justice Department’s efforts to keep it sealed after they had admitted that much of the underlying data used on the project was publicly available and used in other water management schemes in the country.

“Here there is simply no colorable claim of ownership over the broad ideas, public data, and common techniques expressed in the decree,” Melloy said.

The Rio Grande has also been experiencing some of its lowest recorded flows in 2022, and due to a decades-old water-sharing agreement between the three states, many farmers have been forced to leave their land inactive to meet these obligations, Voice of America reported.

Both Texas and New Mexico have been feuding over the river for the past few years, with the former accusing the latter of overpumping groundwater and reducing river flows that make it through the border, while New Mexico claims that it has been “shorted on its share of the river.”

As a way of mitigating the conflict between them, the states of Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado announced on October 2022 that they were able to broker a deal regarding the river together. The increasing droughts and erratic climate incidents across the U.S. have forced the states to work together in order to preserve the river’s use.

Melloy scheduled the hearing on the proposed decree in February to see the merits of the project.

An aerial view of the Rio Grande river
An aerial view of the Rio Grande river in Mexico's Coahuila state. Photo by: AFP/Pedro Pardo

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