U.S. Water News Online
MEXICO CITY -- Mexico has proposed to pay off its water
debt to the United States within five years without imposing strict
conservation measures on its population.
The National Water Commission proposal would increase Mexico's
annual water payment to the United States under a 1944 treaty from
114 billion gallons a year to 180 billion gallons for the next five
That would reduce the debt from its current 502 billion gallons to
180 billion gallons. The panel did not explain how it would pay off
the remaining deficit.
The commission also did not detail what Mexico would use as a
source for the extra water. Levels in the Mexican rivers used to
repay the debts have declined 71 percent over the last nine years.
And the country has been plagued by drought. Prospects for rainfall
during this year's rainy season, typically running from May to
October, also remain grim, Agriculture Secretary Javier Usabiaga told
a news conference in central Hidalgo state.
Usabiaga said, however, that Mexico should be able to make the
higher annual water payments without reducing the amount available to
people here if the country uses its supply efficiently.
``We have said, and we will continue to say, that with a careful
administration of the water, we will not have a problem making the
pay ments,'' Usabiaga said.
The treaty governs the water flow of the Colorado and Rio Grande
One of the reasons Mexico's water supply has dwindled so much is
that many people have dipped into the reserves illegally, Usabiaga
said. The government plans to crack down on unauthorized users as one
way to preserve the remaining supply.
The water commission report also outlined several water-saving
measures -- such as improving irrigation technology and conservation
programs in cities -- but it did not provide details about when or
how they would be implemented.
Mexico is facing mounting criticism from farmers and politicians
in south Texas, who claim that crops in Mexico's upriver Rio Grande
watershed are flourishing while those in South Texas are dying --
allegedly because Mexico has not kept up with its end of the treaty.
Under the treaty, Mexico receives 1.8 billion acre feet of water a
year from the United States, four times the amount it gives to its
northern neighbor. One acre foot equals 325,851 gallons, the amount
necessary to cover one acre of land with one foot of water.
Mexico contributes water to the United States from six rivers
flowing into the Rio Conchos in the northern Chihuahua state. The Rio
Conchos flows into the Rio Grande, which Texas farmers rely on for
Mexico and the United States control water flow through a series
of dams. In recent years, Mexico has not released enough water from
the Rio Conchos because it feared levels would drop so low that
Mexicans would not have enough.
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