Mexico and US reach last-minute agreement to pay water debt
Mexico agrees to transfer ownership of water stored in Amistad, Falcon Dam reservoirs before the Oct. 24 deadline
EL PASO, Texas (Borders Report) — Mexico will pay a huge water debt to the United States by transferring ownership of water stored in two south Texas reservoirs, the International Boundaries and Water Commission said Thursday.
The deal comes two days before the deadline for Mexico to meet its obligations under a 1944 binational water treaty to manage the Rio Grande’s water, which is essential to farmers and water districts on both sides of the border.
Fears that Mexico might default on its debt prompted officials like Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to urge the State Department to ensure compliance. The Texas Environmental Quality Commission pointed out that farmers and communities depend on this water and Mexico should pay on time.
“This agreement helps meet water commitments before the end of this cycle and provides a much-needed resource for communities in the region,” Abbott said Thursday. “This water is essential for Texans along the Rio Grande to grow crops, provide food, and support local communities and businesses.”
An agreement called Minute No. 325 to the contract provides for the transfer of approximately 105,000 acre-feet (130 million cubic meters) of water in the Amistad and Falcon International reservoirs from Mexican ownership to US ownership.
The deal appears to diffuse a tense diplomatic situation between the two countries and a potentially explosive situation in the state of Chihuahua, where Mexican farmers routed a National Guard detachment last month and took over the La Boquilla Dam, shattering President Andres Manuel Lopez’s plans Obrador to use this water to pay off the debt to the US
The agreement provides for working groups to develop water management alternatives to increase the reliability of Rio Grande’s water supplies to users in the United States and Mexico, the IBWC said.
In addition, it includes a provision for US humanitarian assistance to Mexico, if necessary, to provide municipal water supplies to Mexican communities along the Rio Grande downstream of the Amistad Dam.
“We appreciate the efforts of Mexican government officials to fulfill their contractual obligations in a timely manner. This agreement puts us on a path to improve the management of Rio Grande in the future for the benefit of both countries,” said US Commissioner Jayne Harkins.
Mexican Commissioner Humberto Marengo said Mexico intends to honor its commitments from the start but is grateful for US support.
“I appreciate the humanitarian assistance offered by the United States so that Mexican communities who depend on the Rio Grande for their sustenance may receive the assistance they need to meet their community needs, as set forth in Article 4 of the Mexican Constitution .” said the Mexican official.
Under the 1944 Water Treaty, the United States is entitled to a portion of the water entering the Rio Grande from six Mexican tributaries for a total of 1,750,000 acre-feet (2,158.6 million cubic meters) over five years. The current five-year cycle ends on October 24th.
“I want to thank the United States for their understanding and solidarity,” Lopez Obrador said Thursday in a video conference broadcast on YouTube. “We had some difficulties, but they were understanding.”
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