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Water War Between The States

On average seven billion gallons a day flow down the Potomac River past Washington. And on average neighboring Virginia and Maryland remove only about 300 million a day for its citizens to drink.

But as CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart reports, these are not average times for the water sof the Potomac and the two states—Maryland and Virginia—it divides.

The problem is the City of Fairfax, Virginia now says its intake pump at the river's edge is sucking up more mud and debris than clean water and it wants to extend its pipe to take water from the middle of the river where it's clearer.

"We want to have better water quality than that, and we need this offshore intake in order to provide that water quality,"said Stuart Raphael, an attorney for the Fairfax County Water Authority. "It is a public health issue."

Maryland disagrees. According to officials from that side of the river, Fairfax has an over-development issue. The Fairfax water is muddy, they say, because Virginians are building too many suburbs.

"If it can fuel its development with the existing resources they have, good for them," said Jean Cryor, a delegate to the Maryland General Assembly. "But if they have to destroy Maryland's resources, the answer is, back off."

When Virginia sought permission to extend its pumps, Maryland said no, and among other things, cited the authority of none other than King Charles the First of England who in 1632 gave the river solely to Maryland.

When this water drama runs its course, the dispute could end up at the Supreme Court, where—if one were counting—five Justices live on the Virginia side of the river.

The last time the High Court got involved in a state-to-state spat like this, they gave Ellis Island to New Jersey and snubbed New York.

The dispute would have surprised King Charles, who saw the Potomac as a scenic boundary between two of his colonies.