HARLINGEN —Whiskey’s for drinking, and water’s for fighting over.
U.S. officials have reiterated their demand that Mexico take immediate action to redress their massive water shortfall under a 1944 treaty regulating flows into the Rio Grande.
“Mexican government officials have stated there is enough water stored in the Mexican reservoirs to enable Mexico to meet the needs of Chihuahua farmers during this year’s irrigation season while complying with the treaty,” Jayne Harkins, commissioner of the International Boundary and Water Commission, said in July.
“They need to increase their water releases to the United States immediately,” she added. “Mexico has failed to implement releases promised earlier and continuing to delay increases the risk of Mexico failing to meet its delivery obligation.”
Under the bilateral 1944 Water Treaty, Mexico is required to divert so much water into the Rio Grande to help fill the Amistad and Falcon Lake reservoirs, which are used as drinking water for residents in both the United States and Mexico, as well as providing critical supplies to U.S. farmers for irrigation.
The water portions delivered by both the U.S. and Mexico to meet their treaty requirements are measured in five-year cycles. The current cycle ends Oct. 24, and to meet its obligations, Mexico will have to deliver an additional 418,829 acre-feet into the system to replenish Amistad and Falcon Lake.
Few people think it’s going to happen.
There are six Mexican rivers and streams covered by the water treaty — the Conchos, Arroyo las Vacas, San Rodrigo, Escondido, Salado and San Diego. Of these, only the Rio Conchos, which enters the Rio Grande near Presidio, and the Salado River, which flows into Falcon International Reservoir, are significant riverine players when it comes to the water treaty.
“In a typical year, those two account for the vast majority of the flow that is credited to the United States,” said Sally Spener, U.S. secretary for the IBWC. “Some of the others are pretty small, some of them are dry at times, and every 10 years you’ll get a huge storm and you’ll get a big slug of water.”
Of those six rivers, the treaty stipulates that the United States will receive one-third of the flow, which Mexico is required to release from dams into the Rio Grande.
“In the uppermost area, there’s the Rio Conchos, and that’s probably the most productive watershed that contributes water to the Rio Grande,” said Sonny Hinojosa, general manager of Hidalgo County Irrigation District No. 2.
LOW LAKE LEVELS
Harkins’ warning to the Mexican government is the second she issued about the water shortfall in July.
Mexico has only delivered 1,333,171-acre feet out of its minimum five-year obligation of 1,750,000 acre-feet, and the remaining volume exceeds the 350,000 acre-feet minimum average volume the 1944 Water Treaty requires over an entire year.
That leaves Mexico about 420,000…