UPDATE 7 August 2014: “As of July 26, Mexico has failed to deliver to the U.S. more than 361,000 acres feet of water, which puts the country more than a year behind in overall volume to remain on pace to comply with the 1944 Water Treaty between Mexico and the United States.” Read more in the Valley Morning Star.
UPDATE 17 January 2014: “Pressure from the U.S. government may have finally convinced Mexican officials to release much-needed water to the Rio Grande Valley, but the amount is hardly a flood. The office of U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, released a statement Friday indicating that Mexican officials were preparing to release 25,000 acre-feet of water during the next four weeks — less than 9 percent of the total water deficit, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.” Read more in the McAllen Monitor.
UPDATE 15 November 2013: Sen. John Cornyn and Congressman Filemon Vela wrote IBWC Commissioner Edward Drusina Nov. 14, warning that they “will closely scrutinize any appropriation of federal funds or authorization of expenditures” related to certain provisions of the 1944 Treaty with Mexico that “may not directly support an immediate resolution” of the water deficit owed South Texas. Full text of the letter here.
UPDATE 21 June 2013: A call-to-action report, titled “Addressing Mexico’s Water Deficit to the United States,” was released yesterday by TDA Commissioner Staples and TCEQ Commissioner Rubinstein. “Enough is enough,” Commissioner Staples said. “When two countries sign a treaty, compliance with the treaty’s terms should not be a point of negotiation decades later…” Read the report; read the AgriLife economic report.
UPDATE 19 June 2013: Texas AgriLife Extension reports that “[a] total lack of irrigation water, whether by drought or international politics, would amount to agricultural losses in South Texas of almost $400 million annually and the loss of almost 5,000 jobs.” Read the full story here.
UPDATE 14 June 2013: Gov. Perry signed HCR 55, by Lucio “urging the U.S. Department of State to take appropriate action to ensure that Mexico complies with the 1944 Treaty regarding shared water resources and that it make required water deliveries to the United States a priority.”
UPDATE 22 May 2013: In a letter today, TCEQ Commissioner Carlos Rubinstein urged the U.S. State Department to take action in resolving the Mexican water deficit. Calling the current state of affairs “completely and totally unacceptable,” he urged the Department to take “meaningful unilateral action.” Read the full text of the letter here.
UPDATE 15 May 2013: Texans for Treaty Compliance have launched a website dedicated to the Mexico water deficit and a petition asking President Obama to intervene in resolving the issues. The petition calls on the President to enforce the Rio Grande Water Treaty with Mexico and demand repayment of the water debt that is: 1) Crippling South Texas agriculture and related businesses; 2) Jeopardizing municipal water supplies; and 3) Further compromising habitat for the 131 rare species – many threatened or endangered – in the region.
UPDATE 14 May 2013: U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced an amendment to the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) reauthorization to address Mexico’s failure to take action to uphold its water obligations to the U.S. under the 1944 Treaty (Utilization of Waters of the Colorado and Tijuana Rivers and of the Rio Grande Treaty), contributing to Texas’ growing water shortage.
UPDATE 10 May 2013: A one-stop portal for facts on the Mexico water deficit and resulting water shortages in the Lower Rio Grande Valley has been launched by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The site provides “[d]ocuments and information pertaining to the TCEQ’s position on Rio Grande water distribution between the United States and Mexico.” Featured items include an issues summary, copies of official resolutions and correspondence, and links to relevant entities and data.
UPDATE 8 May 2013: The Texas House of Representatives urges the IBWC and U.S. Department of State to take action to ensure Mexico’s compliance with the 1944 treaty governing water deliveries to the U.S. The resolution, HCR 55 by Rep. Eddie Lucio III, cites Mexico’s water deficit of over 390,000 acre-feet, and notes that “municipal, industrial, and agricultural water users in Texas rely almost exclusively on these waters from the Rio Grande for their water supplies.” The resolution is pending in the Senate Natural Resources Committee.
UPDATE 29 April 2013: The RGRWA strongly calls on President Obama to champion the cause of South Texas agriculture at his meeting May 2 with Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto. Mexico’s debt of more than 400,000 acre-feet of water means many irrigation districts in the Lower Rio Grande Valley no longer have water to pump for farmers. And even cities – which also depend on districts to pump their supplies – are facing water emergencies. Read more here.
UPDATE 11 April 2013: A group of U.S. Congressmen from Texas has sent a letter to President Obama, encouraging him to speak with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on the issue of Mexican water debt when he visits in early May. The letter, signed by U.S. Representatives Filemon Vela, Ruben Hinojosa, Henry Cuellar, Pete Gallego, and Beto O’Rourke, notes the State Department and IBWC’s inability to resolve the issue thus far, adding that “[w]hile we appreciate that many meetings with the Mexicans have occurred and that a very small amount of water has been released…they have not yet presented a concrete plan to address the deficit.” The letter points out that potable water supplies are endangered for up to 800,000 citizens of the Lower Rio Grande Valley, and requests immediate action from the President on the issue. Read the full text of the letter here.
UPDATE 9 April 2013: Texas Gov. Rick Perry today wrote President Barack Obama, urging him and Secretary of State John Kerry “to immediately work with the government of Mexico to ensure that it lives up to the terms of the 1944 Water Treaty.” Gov. Perry stressed that “irrigation districts that distribute water from the Rio Grande to municipalities in the Lower Rio Grande Valley are sending notices to cities that they may soon run out of irrigation water used to deliver municipal water for more than 800,000 residents. This grim situation is being exacerbated by Mexico’s refusal to make meaningful deliveries of Rio Grande water to the United States.”
The Governor also took the International Boundary and Water Commission to task for its failure to provide assistance. “The time to act is now,” the Governor wrote. “Without the federal government’s intervention, some Texas communities in the Lower Rio Grande Valley could be facing critical water shortages within 60 days.” Click here for the full text of the letter.
UPDATE 8 April 2013: On April 5, 2103, Mexico and the International Boundary and Water Commission approved the release of water from a dam in the Mexican state of Coahuila. One-third of the water will be allocated for the use of South Texas communities. (See Mexico agrees to release some water to U.S., McAllen Monitor, 5 April 2013.)
However, according to analyses conducted at the request of Congressman Filemon Vela, the release would provide at most 7,500 acre-feet even under a best case scenario.
Representative Vela released a statement April 6 criticizing the release as a “pittance.” The IBWC announcement regarding Mexican water releases, he said, “involves the delivery of a pittance in relation to what is really owed. I stand by my earlier position. It is time for the United States Department of State to get serious about this matter and help get American towns and farmers in South Texas the relief they deserve.”
Once again, Mexico is failing to deliver water to the Lower Rio Grande Valley, exacerbating ongoing drought conditions and threatening supplies not only to irrigated agriculture but also municipalities in the region.
As of early March 2013, Mexico is short some 410,000 acre-feet due in the current five-year cycle that ends October 2015. (This amount is enough to meet the municipal needs of the Valley for two years.)
The situation may become even more dire, if Mexico follows through on plans to build a series of new dams in the Conchos basin.
Several irrigation districts in the Valley have notified producers that water deliveries may be suspended. Because irrigation systems also deliver most municipal water supplies from the river to treatment plants, towns and cities in the region may be affected when irrigation districts can no longer pump. Already, several districts have warned certain municipalities that a lack of “pushwater” may curtail deliveries. Pushwater issues are discussed in this brief.
Municipal water suppliers notified thus far include: Donna, Edcouch, Elsa, La Joya, La Villa, Lyford, McAllen, Mercedes, Raymondville, Rio Hondo, San Benito, Weslaco, Agua Special Utility District, and East Rio Hondo and North Alamo Water Supply Corporations.
Texas Senator John Cornyn and area Congressmen Henry Cuellar, Ruben Hinojosa, Pete Gallego, and Filemon Vela have urged the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC), which oversees treaty allocations of the Colorado River and the Rio Grande, to rectify the situation, and called on the Mexican government to comply with treaty requirements.
Valley entities also are petitioning the IBWC to take action.
State and regional officials traveled to Washington, DC, Monday, March 11, 2013, to meet with the U.S. State Department on the issue. Congressman Filemon Vela, Texas Representative Eddie Lucio III, and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Commissioner Carlos Rubinstein participated in the meeting.
Rep. Lucio has asked the Mexican-American Legislative Caucus to “aid the Valley region in this issue.” Read the letter here.
The terms of a 1944 treaty with the U.S. require Mexico to deliver for Texas water rights holders an average of 350,000 acre-feet of water each year into the Rio Grande from six named treaty tributaries. Over the last few decades, Mexico has regularly skirted its obligations by waiting until the end of each five-year accounting cycle to make up ongoing deficits, often by means of a fortuitous hurricane that replenishes water levels in the Falcon-Amistad reservoir system. In the late 1990s, Mexico amassed a water debt of 1.5 million acre-feet, further harming Valley agricultural producers already severely impacted by ongoing drought. According to Texas state estimates, that debt cost Texans more than 3,000 jobs and $105 million in personal income in 2002 alone and South Texas farmers lost $259 per acre in 2001 and 2002. (More information here.) That debt was finally repaid in 2005.
In contrast, the U.S. has never faulted on its annual obligations to deliver to Mexico 1.6 million acre-feet from the Colorado River for use in Baja California or another allotment of 60,000 acre-feet from El Paso for use in Chihuahua.
“Mexico poised to release water to United States,” McAllen Monitor, 17 January 2014
“Threaten cuts if no progress with Mexico and water treaty,” Brownsville Herald, 14 November 2013
“Vela rallies locals on Mexico’s water deficit,” McAllen Monitor, 6 September 2013
“U.S., local officials stress Mexico’s treaty deficit,” Brownsville Herald, 6 September 2013
“Low Water Deliveries From Mexico Hurt Texas Farmers,” Fronteras, 8/28/13
“Water action gains social media support,” Brownsville Herald, 8/13/13
“At Border Conference, Speakers Emphasize Trade,” Texas Tribune, 8/7/13
“Mexico’s water crisis may shed light on water treaty non-compliance,” Southwest Farm Press, 7/16/13
“Barrera: Hold Mexico accountable on water,” San Antonio Express-News, 6/22/13
“Opinion: Lawmakers lack leverage on treaty dispute,” San Antonio Express-News, 6/21/13
“Mexico blamed for Valley’s drought woes,” Valley Morning Star, 6/20/13
“Dry South Texas agriculture would cost $400 million, 5,000 jobs,” Southwest Farm Press, 6/19/13
“OPINION – It’s time to act: Valley can’t afford to wait for relief in water supplies,” McAllen Monitor, 6/11/13
“Legislation would urge Mexico’s water treaty compliance,” McAllen Monitor, 6/11/13
“WATER Act to Help Texas Water Shortage, Engage Mexico,” Wilson County News, 6/10/13
“Federal Legislation Targets Mexico Over Water Treaty,” Texas Tribune, 6/10/13
“Experts Urge Focus on Aquifers in Push for Water From Mexico,” New York Times, 6/8/13
“Official asks cities to look elsewhere for water as Mexican deficit grows,” Brownsville Herald, 6/7/13
“Water Treaty Concerns Trigger Calls for Changes,” Texas Tribune, 6/5/13
“New op-ed encourages Mexico to give up water,” Southwest Farm Press, 5/30/ 13
“Texas asks feds for help in water dispute with Mexico,” Texas Tribune, 5/24/13
“Petition aims to push IBWC to resolve water shortage,” Brownsville Herald, 5/24/13
“Petition asks Obama to act on Mexican water treaty,” McAllen Monitor, 5/24/13
“Opinion: Unless Mexico honors water treaty, Valley could face disastrous summer,” TCEQ/TDA, 5/24/2013
“Rubinstein sends letter to U.S. State Department about Mexico water deficit,” 5/22/13
“TTC launches petition to President Obama on Mexico water debt,” 5/15/13
“TCEQ launches Mexican water deficit website,” 5/10/13
“Opinion: Mexico must release more water,” San Antonio Express-News, 4/30/13
“Barrera: Mexico must pay its water debt,” Austin American-Statesman, 4/29/13
“House to feds: Pressure Mexico to release water,” The Monitor, 4/11/13
Commissioner Rubinstein to State Department
Valley Congressional Delegation to President Obama
Gov. Perry to President Obama
Sen. Cornyn to IBWC Commissioner Edward Drusina
Valley Congressional Delegation to IBWC Commissioner Edward Drusina
Valley Congressional Delegation to Eduardo Medina Mora, Mexico’s Ambassador to the U.S.
RESOLUTIONS BY VALLEY ENTITIES
Cameron County Commissioners Court
Cameron County Irrigation District #2
City of Alton
City of Los Fresnos
City of McAllen
City of Palm View
City of Pharr
City of Primera
City of San Benito
City of South Padre Island
City of Weslaco
Delta Lake Irrigation District
East Rio Hondo WSC
Hidalgo County Irrigation District #2
Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council
North Alamo WSC
Rio Grande Regional Water Planning Group (Region M)