Groundwater is often misunderstood because of its subsurface nature. Consequently, policies intended to govern the resource are fragmented as is evident in the Supreme Court case between Mississippi and Tennessee. Here, disagreements over ownership and the scientific-hydrogeological scope of groundwater in the Memphis Sand Aquifer have led to an 11-year battle. The Supreme Court has found itself in the midst of a potential regime shift in terms of its decision over transboundary aquifer and groundwater governance. Moving forward, implications of this decision will act as a catalyst for transboundary aquifer and groundwater governance, both nationally and internationally.
Using the Memphis Sand Aquifer as a case study, the ultimate objective of this analysis is to create a governance framework that will allow for the development of agreement(s) over the groundwater in transboundary aquifers. This research systematically reviews existing aquifer sharing agreements (2 model agreements, 2 legally-binding agreements, and 3 informal agreements) using elements of political sociology. In doing so specific tools, such as data sharing mechanisms and conflict resolution strategies, embedded within each agreement are illuminated and can be used to determine the necessary components of an effective transboundary aquifer agreement. Additionally, the Internationally Shared Aquifer Resources Management (ISARM) program is evaluated as a framework for key considerations when attempting to manage a transboundary aquifer.