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Agriculture Today

Officials request Mexico to live up to 1944 Water Treaty

Officials request Mexico to live up to 1944 Water Treaty

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May 22, 2013
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AUSTIN -- Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Comm-issioner Carlos Rubinstein urged the International Boundary and Water Commission and the U.S. State Department to compel Mexico to deliver Rio Grande system water to the United States. Under a 1944 Treaty, according to an April 16 Texas Department of Agriculture press release, Mexico must deliver an average of 350,000 acre-feet of water annually to the United States. To date, Mexico has withheld more than 430,000 acre-feet owed to the United States, and the water deficit continues to grow, causing water suppliers across the Rio Grande Valley to run out of water.

In 2012, the International Boundary and Water Commission was notified that millions of citizens in the Rio Grande Valley would face irreparable and catastrophic harm if Mexico did not immediately address the water deficit. Cameron County Irrigation District No. 2, one of the Valley’s largest irrigation districts, has notified irrigation users that as of April 12, they are no longer taking orders for new water deliveries. Farmers in the district will only have access to water currently committed. This will have catastrophic consequences to crop yields in this district and may result in total crop losses in some instances. Because of the interconnected nature of the Valley’s water distribution system, cities and industrial water users have a difficult time acquiring water when irrigation water is exhausted.

“We are facing an absolute water crisis right now and we need Mexico to deliver the water entitled to Texas and the United States,” Staples said. “We need a renewed commitment by our federal government to insist that Mexico release water belonging to the United States. In a state as large and drought-prone as Texas, water is absolutely critical to the well-being of our citizens, industries, and economic health. This is not just a matter of two countries fighting over limited water. That fight happened decades ago and now we must hold Mexico to the deal to which they and we agreed.”

The Valley’s two other largest water districts, Hidalgo County Water District No. 9 and Delta Lake Irrigation District, have announced that without substantial new inflows from Mexico or substantial rain, they too will likely stop taking orders within 30 days.

Mexico is obligated to provide water to the United States under the 1944 Water Treaty, unless Mexico is suffering exceptional drought conditions. Drought maps indicate that Mexico’s portion of the Rio Grande basin that contributes to treaty inflows has not been under exceptional drought conditions since at least May 2012.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry recently sent a letter to President Barack Obama, requesting that he and Secretary of State John Kerry “... immediately work with the government of Mexico to ensure that it lives up to the terms of the 1944 Water Treaty.”

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