MISSION, Texas, March
11, 2005 (ENS): Mexico will pay off its entire water debt
to Texas by September, under terms of an deal reached between the
United States and Mexico late last week and made public on Thursday.
The agreement ends a 12 year dispute between the two countries over
Mexico’s water debt.
“Today we are here to announce tremendous news for farmers,
ranchers and residents of the Rio Grande Valley,” said Texas
Governor Rick Perry in Mission on Thursday. “The 12 year wait
is over, our diplomacy has been successful and every drop of the
water owed you by Mexico is on the way.”
In Mexico City, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said Thursday,
"In the spirit of effective bilateral cooperation, I am pleased
that we have reached a mutual understanding on the transfer of a
sum of water that will cover Mexico's debt to the United States
under our 1944 Water Treaty, thus ensuring continued cooperation
in the management of precious natural resources to the mutual benefit
of both economies."
Mexico currently owes Texas approximately 733,000 acre feet of
water under terms of the 1944 Water Sharing Treaty. At one point,
Mexico’s water debt had reached 1.5 million acre feet.
“This is not only great news for the people of the Rio Grande
Valley," Perry told a group of farmers, ranchers and businesspeople.
"It is a historic day for all of Texas, the United States and
Mexico, because it marks the end of a contentious issue that has
clouded our friendship for too long and marks the beginning of a
new era of cooperation."
Under the new agreement Mexico will transfer water from the international
Amistad and Falcon reservoirs to Texas, raising U.S. reserves from
95 percent of storage to 103 percent.
Lakes at the two dams on the Rio Grande in South Texas are the
major sources of water for the arid Lower Rio Grande Valley. For
years, they were dangerously low until moderate rainfall in 2004
raised their levels.
In addition, Mexico will deliver at least the average minimum of
350,000 acre-feet of water per year for the remaining three years
of the current cycle, and end the cycle without a deficit.
The water will be allocated to water rights holders in the Rio
Grande for use in 2005 and 2006.
“These transfers will ensure that Texas growers have the
water they need in time for the planting season and give our farmers,
their families and employees some much needed piece of mind,”
Perry said. “And not only will Mexico’s existing water
debt be totally paid off in short order, but South Texas farmers
and ranchers can also expect consistency and certainty in future
The Rio Grande Basin, a expanse of land on either side of the Rio
Grande, from the mouth at the Gulf of Mexico to southern Colorado,
is the river's watershed and includes one of the most productive
agricultural regions of the United States.
But severe drought, an exploding population, new industries and
inefficient agriculture irrigation systems are some of many factors
identified as exerting pressure on the Rio Grande.
The United States and Mexico have agreed to continue to work together
to clarify and formalize key provisions in the 1944 treaty. They
will determine how both countries will define conditions under which
water transfers can be modified if necessary under extraordinary
In addition, the United States will continue to receive one-third
of the water arriving in the Rio Grande from six Mexican tributaries
specified in the 1944 Water Treaty.
The new agreement also calls for Mexico and the United States to
meet annually to review basin conditions, develop firm water delivery
plans for the next cycle year, and work cooperatively on drought
management strategies that can benefit both countries.
“These efforts will increase transparency and accountability,
and help ensure that both sides live up to their obligations consistently
in the future – not just when Mother Nature is generous,”
An exchange of diplomatic notes will formalize the understanding
of the two governments.
Mexico has met the minimum average volume required under the treaty
in the first two years of the current water accounting cycle, 2002-2007,
and as of February 26 had delivered 125,840 acre-feet to be applied
to the treaty requirement for year three of the current cycle.
The State Department said that Mexico will deliver an additional
224,160 acre-feet of water from the measured treaty tributaries
before the third year closes at the end of September.
The agreement is the culmination of more than two years of diplomacy
by Texas and U.S. officials working with Mexican officials to reach
an agreement that will benefit citizens on both sides of the border.
“Today the relationship between Texas and Mexico is stronger
than ever because we have kept the lines of communication open and
talked as friends – even on this most contentious of issues,”
Perry said. “The agreement we have announced today sends a
strong message that we will continue to pursue a common path to
that future – together as friends and neighbors.”
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