U.S. Water News Online
HARLINGEN, Texas -- A Mexican official has promised Mexico
will meet its scheduled Rio Grande water payments to the United
States for 2003 and 2004, U.S. Rep. Solomon Ortiz said.
``This is obviously very good news for our farmers, but, as
always, I will believe it when the water trickles down the Rio
Grande,'' Ortiz said. ``The history between our nations on this
matter has been pretty spotty.''
Drought-stricken South Texas farmers depend on the water to
irrigate their crops.
Geronimo Gutierrez, Mexican Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs for
North America, promised the water during a phone call to Ortiz's
Washington, D.C., office, Ortiz said.
Gutierrez, who was in Washington for a series of meetings with the
Hispanic caucus, also promised Mexico would begin to pay down its
water debt to the U.S., which has mounted in the past decade to about
1.4 million acre feet, or almost 500 billion gallons, Ortiz said.
Under a 1944 treaty, the U.S. and Mexico share water from both the
Rio Grande and Colorado River. The pact obligates Mexico to release
350,000 acre feet annually into the Rio Grande.
Ortiz said Jose Juan Bremer, Mexico's ambassador to the U.S.,
repeated Gutierrez's promise.
``Just like everything else, we'll have to verify it,'' Ortiz
said. ``I don't think that he had any reason to call me and mislead
Ortiz said the problem may still remain with the state of
Chihuahua, which has been transformed from a desert into a region of
lush alfalfa and vegetable fields to the ire of South Texas farmers.
Chihuahua Gov. Patricio Martinez is of an opposing political party to
Mexican President Vicente Fox and may not agree to Mexico City's
Sally Spener of the International Boundary and Water Commission,
which oversees Rio Grande water accounts, was unable to be reached.
The phone call from Gutierrez comes just weeks after Mexico
guaranteed that a portion of water conserved by irrigation
improvements in Chihuahua would go to Texas.
``This is a different tone and a different message from the
past,'' Ortiz said.
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