Mexico Must Leave More Water in Rio Grande

January 13, 2003

Washington, D.C. (ENS) - The U.S. and Mexico reached an agreement last week aimed at settling a long running dispute over Mexico's use of water from the Rio Grande River.

Under the agreement, Mexico will provide at least 400,000 acre-feet of water to the Rio Grande, including 200,000 acre-feet of new water by the end of January, in time for the current growing season.

In exchange, the United States must give Mexico 1.5 million acre-feet of water from the Colorado River.

However, 50,000 acre feet of the water Mexico has promised will be contingent on the weather, and could be withheld in dry years.

For the past decade, Mexico has been drawing more water from the Rio Grande than it is entitled to under a 1944 treaty between the two nations. Mexico's water deliveries to the U.S. have fallen more than 1.5 million acre-feet short of treaty requirements, which Mexico has blamed on extreme drought conditions.

In March 2001, U.S. President George W. Bush and Mexican President Vicente Fox signed Minute Order 307 of the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC), which required Mexico to deliver 600,000 acre-feet of water by July 31, 2001.

But during the cycle year running from October 1, 2000, through September 30, 2001, Mexico delivered just 427,544 acre-feet of water, according to the IBWC.

The United States and Mexico expect to hold a bi-national meeting of experts in late January, according to State Department spokesperson Richard Boucher, to discuss how the commitments contained in the two nations' 1944 Water Treaty will be treated within the framework of Mexico's new domestic water allocation plan.

The United States and Mexico will seek to ensure a reliable and predictable water supply during both periods of scarcity and of abundant rainfall. Both countries will also continue efforts toward resolving an outstanding water deficit of some 1.5 million acre-feet.