U.S. Water News Online
HARLINGEN, Texas -- Satellite data show lots of water in
reservoirs in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, leading Texas officials
to charge the region's claims of drought no longer hold.
Key Rio Grande tributaries are located in Chihuahua, and Texas
farmers and irrigation managers allege water promised under a 1944
U.S.-Mexico treaty is being hoarded rather than released to the Rio
``So we have this argument with Mexico about whether they're in an
exceptional drought. We would look at their meteorological statistics
and say, 'Well, No,''' said Gordon Wells of the University of Texas'
Center for Space Research.
The studies were commissioned by the state Department of
Agriculture and are getting wide attention from state and federal
officials anxious for Mexico to deliver years' worth of irrigation
water to the U.S.
Under the treaty, Mexico is to release 350,000 acre feet a year to
the U.S., which in turn sends 1,500,000 acre feet of Colorado River
water to Mexico. Treaty conditions are waived under extraordinary
Oct. 2 marked the end of a five-year accounting cycle set by the
treaty, the second such cycle that ended with Mexico in arrears. The
U.S. arm of the International Boundary and Water Commission, which
monitors usage of shared waterways, says Mexico is 1.5 million acre
feet in debt. Mexico has claimed extraordinary drought.
The State Department marked the date with a public reminder urging
Mexico to make paying the debt a priority.
A prolonged South Texas drought means Rio Grande Valley farmers
are dependent on irrigation water pledged under the treaty. State
Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander has estimated undelivered water
will cause $73 million in economic damages to the Valley by the end
of the year.
While Mexico suffered a dry spring and early summer, the satellite
data indicate significant recent rainfall has changed things.
``We have collected and presented indisputable evidence that the
state of Chihuahua has more than adequate amounts of water stored in
their reservoirs that could be released to South Texas,'' Agriculture
Commissioner Susan Combs said.
Albert Szekely, Mexico's point man on the water dispute, was not
available for comment.
Wells, meanwhile, has been collecting and analyzing satellite
images and says there is clear evidence of water use patterns that
has dramatically altered the satellite view of northern Mexico.
``The flood irrigation that goes on there is quite colossal for a
desert area,'' he said.
Some fields are being flooded 6 to 8 acre feet per field in an
area that gets only 10 to 12 inches of rainfall a year, several times
the amount of irrigation water used by Valley farmers.
The pecan groves and alfalfa fields are flood-irrigated to
standing water depth, he said.
``So when we look at the satellite imagery it's like we're looking
at a lake surface.''
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